Cocoa prices in Cameroon go up as bean quality improves

DOUALA, Oct 23 (Reuters) - Cocoa farmgate prices have risen sharply in Cameroon this season as bean quality has improved, the ministry of trade and exporters told Reuters on Wednesday.

Cocoa farmers are selling their beans for 1,050 CFA francs per kilogram for ordinary quality and 1,650 for premium quality, up from between 800 and 900 CFA francs last season.

Cameroon, the third largest African cocoa producer with an annual harvest of 264,000 tonnes in 2018/19, is known for the poor quality of its cocoa beans, which are characterised by a strong smell of smoke.

For the past three years, the government and cocoa producer associations have launched programs to improve fermentation and drying techniques that are starting to show results, farmers and exporters said.

“French chocolate makers already buy at 1,650 CFA francs per kilo the best cocoa beans quality,” said Serge Eric Epoune, spokesperson for the ministry of trade.

Unlike Ivory Coast and Ghana, which set a guaranteed price for cocoa producers, Cameroon’s cocoa marketing system is liberalised.

The National Office of Coffee and Cocoa (ONCC) each day issues an indicative price, based on the London Stock Exchange’s cocoa price, that is used as reference for negotiations.

According to the ONCC price, cocoa should be negotiated between 1,010 and 1,080 CFA per kilogram by October 18.

The 2019/20 season opened in Cameroon in August and will end in July 2020. (Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Editing by Ange Aboa, Juliette Jabkhiro, Kirsten Donovan)