* Brazil has claimed cocoa lacked proper documents
* Incident has led to Brazilian ban on Ivorian cocoa
* Official says documents included fumigation certificate
(Adds Brazil agri. min insistence that trade deal violated)
By Loucoumane Coulibaly
ABIDJAN, Aug 24 Ivory Coast inspected and
certified two shipments of cocoa beans totaling 10,000 tonnes
for export to Brazil, where import inspectors say they arrived
infested with insects, the West African nation's cocoa marketing
board said on Friday.
The world's top cocoa grower refuted an accusation by a
Brazilian official earlier this month that the shipments,
exported in July, lacked documents showing they had been
fumigated after loading into the ships' hulls in Ivory Coast.
Brazil's agriculture ministry said last week it would
suspend imports from the world's top grower pending an Ivorian
investigation. It said on Friday that it sent
notification of the ban to Ivorian authorities on Aug. 23.
"The Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC) would like to make clear
that the offending shipments were definitely inspected and
phytosanitary certificates were issued," Ivory Coast's marketing
board said in a statement.
A CCC official, who asked not to be named, confirmed that
the documentation for the shipments included fumigation
"All the papers concerning fumigation exist. We really do
not know what happened. Only investigations will allow us to
determine who was responsible," the official said.
The Brazilian agriculture official who made the claim could
not be reached on Friday to respond, but a press official from
the ministry said regardless of whether documents were supplied,
the deliveries violated a bilateral agreement with Ivory Coast.
"What violates the agreement between the two countries is
the fact that the cargo came with live insects," the press
official said, which would put Brazilian cocoa at risk if the
insects turned out to be pests from cocoa plantations, he said.
"Even if fumigation was done, it wasn't done properly. Any
insects present should have been dead but there were live
insects when it reached here," he said.
An inquiry involving the exporting firms, the CCC and
Ivorian agriculture ministry as well as Brazilian authorities is
currently under way to determine how the shipments became
contaminated, the statement said.
"The fumigation of cocoa upon exportation is a legal
obligation and a commercial necessity for registered coffee and
cocoa exporters," the statement read.
"Not doing so would endanger not only the Ivorian export
image but also their commercial efforts."
Brazil is also carrying out its own inquiry at the northeast
port of Ilheus in Bahia state where the cocoa entered the
country. It hopes to find out why the cocoa was unloaded from
the ships when anomalies were detected. The findings will be
published in Brazil's official journal, the agriculture ministry
press official said, but it could not estimate when.
Neither Ivory Coast nor Brazil has released the names of the
export and shipping companies involved.
Ivory Coast, which exported more than 1.5 million tonnes of
cocoa during a record 2010/11 season, has called the infestation
of the two shipments an "exceptional case".
Brazilian officials have also said there is no record that
any previous shipments imported from Ivory Coast contained
The CCC said on Friday that trade relations between the two
countries had not been damaged by the incident.
Brazil's cocoa development agency, Ceplac, said there were
four or five kinds of insects found in samples from the
shipments, all of which were also common in Brazil. None were
pests found on cocoa plantations or a threat to Brazil's own
The shipments have since been fumigated and were awaiting
further testing to determine whether the level of infestation
was below the threshold that restricts the cocoa's use or
requires it to be incinerated.
Local media in Brazil reported that Nestle's
Brazilian division was the buyer of 4,000 tonnes of the infested
cocoa, while the remaining 6,000 tonnes had been purchased by
U.S.-based food processor Cargill.
Brazil, the world's sixth-ranked cocoa producer, also
imports around 60,000 tonnes of beans annually for processing
into products for local consumption and export. The country was
the No. 2 ranked producer until the early 1990s, when a fungal
disease decimated production.
(Additional reporting by Peter Murphy in Brasilia; Writing by
Joe Bavier; editing by Jane Baird and Sofina Mirza-Reid)