Ebola virus outbreak threatens cocoa production in West Africa

 Ivory Coast is the region's top producer of cocoa

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The Independent Online

Chocolate prices could rise as traders fret over the impact of the Ebola outbreak in the run-up to harvest season in West Africa.

The worst affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, are relatively small producers of cocoa beans. However, traders fear the virus could spread to neighbouring Ivory Coast, which accounts for almost 40 per cent of the world's supply of cocoa.

With harvest season in full swing, the commodities market is already feeling the chilling effects of Ebola, with cocoa prices surging to a three-and-a-half-year high on supply concerns.

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have all declared state of emergency and placed entire areas on quarantine to prevent the virus from spreading. However, there are concerns farmers could move from country to country seeking work during harvest season.

 

Ivory Coast cocoa farmers harvest a main crop from mid-October to March. But the country usually sells much as 80 per cent of the crop before the harvest starts.

Ivorian cocoa exports rose to 1.65 million tonnes for the 2013/2014 season from 1.46 million tonnes a year earlier, according to official figures. Total production jumped to a record 1.74 million metric tonnes of cocoa from 1.44 million tons a year earlier.

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More people have died in this year's epidemic than in all previous Ebola outbreaks combined since the virus was first discovered in the seventies with more than 3,000 reported deaths, according to the World Health Organisation.

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