Ghana News

Ivory Coast's ICP to increase cocoa grinding capacity by 60%

ABIDJAN, Dec 16 (Reuters) - Ivory Cocoa Products (ICP) will increase cocoa grinding capacity at its Ivory Coast plant in San Pedro by 60% to 80,000 tonnes by September next year, Chief Executive Ismael Al Khalil said on Wednesday.

Ivory Coast and Ghana, which produce two thirds of the world’s cocoa, introduced a $400 a tonne guaranteed farm gate price on cocoa sales for the 2020/21 season but have since struggled to sell their beans after chocolate demand declined during the coronavirus crisis.

The pandemic has dented demand for semi-finished products such as cocoa butter, powder and cake but the market should bounce back by 2022, Al Khalil said.

ICP will expand its warehouses by 50% to 15,000 tonnes of cocoa beans to meet growing storage needs, he said.

“Despite COVID, this year we have invested more than 12 million euros ($14.6 million),” he told Reuters.

“We are investing at a bad time, but we have to move forward and develop because, thanks to the vaccine, this pandemic will be under control soon and we think that will boost chocolate consumption.”

The pandemic has been catastrophic for local grinders and exporters, he said, calling for tax assistance and for the government to favour local operators who struggle to compete with the economies of scale achieved by multinationals.

“We’re afraid of COVID and its impact on our workforce, but it won’t stay around for ever. Demand will eventually catch up with supply,” Al Khalil said.

ICP’s entire output is sold to Theobroma, a unit of Swiss-based Ecom Agrotrade, which supplies Nestle , Starbucks, Procter & Gamble, Kraft , and Lindt among others.

Ivory Coast competes with the Netherlands as the world’s largest cocoa grinder with installed annual capacity of 720,000 tonnes. ($1 = 0.8219 euros)

Reporting by Hereward Holland Editing by David Goodman