Apr 20 - Rising cocoa prices threaten to take the joy out of Easter for many French chocolatiers. Gemma Haines reports.
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Preparations for Easter are in full swing -- and for many people, that means eating a lot of chocolate.
But in France, rising cocoa prices are threatening to take the spring out of the Easter Bunny's step, and local chocolatiers are suffering.
SOUNDBITE: Geoffroy d'Anglejan-Chatillon, Maison du Chocolat managing director, saying (French)
"Easter represents approximately 10 per cent of our turnover, so it's an important period, which we must not overlook, of course. We are very attentive to it, and what's why we also place a lot of attention on creation, because people expect a variety of new products."
Civil war in the Ivory Coast is putting upward pressure on cocoa prices, which have hit 32-year highs at 3 dollars 77 per ton.
The Ivory Coast supplies 50 per cent of Western Europe's cocoa, and although a ban has been lifted on Ivorian cocoa exports, images of stocks languishing on loading docks is prompting worries about supplies.
SOUNDBITE: Florence Pradier, Chocolate Industry Union secretary-general, saying (French)
"The crisis in the Ivory Coast has added volatility to this bullish trend because chocolate manufacturers have followed the application of measures requested by the European Union. Cocoa bean exports were blocked in February. And the Ivory Coast, being the biggest exporting country, offering approximately 35 per cent of the world's cocoa, obviously generated worry, and impacted the market price of cocoa. But globally the trend is bullish."
Florence Pradier from the French chocolate makers' union says a combination of tight supply and excess demand would continue to be an important factor in cocoa prices, even if the Ivory Coast crisis were to ease.
For now, manufacturers are trying to contain rising prices, allowing consumers to indulge in reasonably-priced chocolate.
But if demand continues to grow and prices rise, the French could soon be faced with an unhappy and somewhat impoverished Easter bunny.
Gemma Haines, Reuters.
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