I.Coast's San Pedro port ships first Malian cotton

ABIDJAN Fri May 3, 2013 11:25am EDT

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ABIDJAN May 3 (Reuters) - Ivory Coast's second port of San Pedro has exported its first shipment of cotton from neighbouring Mali and plans to become the principal point of export for the landlocked West African nation's cotton, a port official said on Friday.

"We've just started exporting cotton coming from Mali. The first convoy of 1,500 tonnes arrived from Mali yesterday," port spokesman Parfait Agbo told Reuters.

Mali's cotton had previously been exported via ports in Dakar, Conakry and Ivory Coast's main port in the commercial capital Abidjan.

"We expect to export the majority of Malian cotton production, which will boost the port's overall traffic," Agbo said.

San Pedro already exports around half of all cocoa produced in Ivory Coast, the top producer of the main chocolate ingredient, and is planning a $230 million expansion of the port in order to boost capacity.

Bollore Africa Logistics, a subsidiary of France's Bollore industrial group, manages both the Abidjan and San Pedro ports.

Hit hard by a market crash in the early 2000s that pushed many farmers to switch to other crops, West Africa's cotton sector is currently witnessing a revival fuelled by attractive prices for farmers.

Burkina Faso's output jumped nearly 58 percent last season to 630,000 tonnes, while Mali produced around 450,000 tonnes of unginned cotton.

Ivory Coast, which had annual output of about 400,000 tonnes before a 2002-2003 civil war halved production, is also making a comeback.

Though final figures are not yet available, the country's ginners association has projected output of 360,000 tonnes for the 2012/13 season, which ended last month. (Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Editing by Joe Bavier)

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