ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Access to one of Ivory Coast’s most productive cocoa growing regions has been cut off due to poor road conditions that have left scores of fully loaded trucks stranded, a local lawmaker and farmer cooperative members said on Wednesday.
The section of the Montagnes region along the top cocoa grower’s western border with Liberia that includes the villages of Grabo, Dahouake and Oulodio typically produces around 300,000 tonnes of beans each season.
Farmers said they have had a strong harvest since the 2016/17 season opened on Oct. 1. However, almost daily downpours over the past month - a period when the rainy season usually tapers off - have left the unpaved roads there impassable.
“For two weeks, 80 trucks loaded with cocoa are blocked between Grabo, Oulodio and Dahouake,” said Yaya Coulibaly, a member of parliament representing Grabo, who is also president of a local cooperative.
Another 60 empty trucks that were traveling into the area to pick up cocoa were also stranded, he said.
“The buyers’ and cooperatives’ warehouses are full of cocoa, but we can’t deliver to exporters in (the port of) San Pedro and the quality is beginning to deteriorate,” Coulibaly said.
Ouattara Do, who heads another cooperative in Grabo, has several of his trucks blocked along the road where daily showers soak his beans.
“The problem we have with this situation is that the quality is becoming bad. The mold levels are above 10 percent and the moisture is over 15 percent right now,” he said.
Buyers said they had stopped sending trucks into the region out of concern they could be damaged or get stuck in the mud.
“We’re having to let the cocoa rot over there,” said Ibrahim Fofana, a San Pedro-based transporter who already has six trucks stranded in Grabo. “We’ll see in two or three weeks if things improve.”
Reporting by Ange Aboa; Editing by Joe Bavier and David Evans