Ivory Coast convicts eight for violating government cocoa price

ABIDJAN, July 26 Fri Jul 26, 2013 6:00am EDT

ABIDJAN, July 26 (Reuters) - Eight people have been convicted in Ivory Coast, the world's top cocoa grower, of buying cocoa beans below the government-guaranteed price during the current mid-crop harvest, the Coffee and Cocoa Council said.

Ivory Coast introduced a minimum price for farmers at the beginning of the 2012/13 season, ending more than a decade of sector liberalisation in an effort to raise farmer incomes and encourage reinvestment in ageing plantations.

The CCC marketing board set a farmgate price of 725 CFA francs ($1.46) per kg for the October-to-March main crop, which was largely respected by the merchants.

However, many have ignored its price of 700 CFA francs/kg announced for the April-to-September mid-crop beans, farmers say.

"The (CCC) has apprehended a certain number of operators ... In total, we count eight cases of convictions for the non-respect of the minimum guaranteed price," the marketing board said in a statement.

Those convicted received jail sentences ranging from 10 days to six months. Two more cases are pending, including one for smuggling.

Despite farmers' assertions that price violations by buyers have increased, the announced figures represent a decrease in successful prosecutions during the mid-crop.

Courts convicted 14 buyers during the cocoa main crop, the CCC told reporters in April.

($1 = 495.6040 CFA francs) (Reporting By Joe Bavier; editing by Jane Baird)