Ghana's Currency Slump Spurs Increase in Cocoa Smuggling

    29 September, 2014

    From VOA Learning English, this is Agriculture Report.

    People have been illegally transporting, or smuggling, cocoa beans between Ivory Coast and neighboring Ghana for many years. Ivorian growers smuggled their cocoa beans into Ghana because prices were higher and more dependable there.

    But that changed. The Ghanaian currency, or money has lost value recently. And Ivory Coast has become more secure, following a period of unrest. Now, Ghanaian farmers are smuggling their beans into Ivory Coast, where they get more money for them.

    Ghana's Currency Slump Spurs Increase in Cocoa Smuggling
    FILE - Men pour out cocoa beans to dry in Niable, at the border between Ivory Coast and Ghana.

    The government in Ivory Coast has set a price for cocoa beans. It wants to make sure the Ivorian cocoa farmers make enough money from their crops to keep the beans in the country.

    At the same time, Ghana's money has dropped in value against the dollar by more than 40 percent. This has caused a loss of profits for the country's cocoa growers. They can make more money if they smuggle their crop to Ivory Coast.

    Alfred Allotey is a cocoa storage manager for a company called PBC Limited.

    "The farmers are compelled to give most of their produce to the buyers from Ivory Coast so they can get enough money for their children; it is not that they are willing. But it is the situation that is compelling them to do so," said Allotey.

    Ghanaian farmers who do not send their cocoa beans to Ivory Coast are urging the government to stop competing farmers from doing so.

    James is one of those farmers pressuring the government to stop the smuggling.

    "Ghana is our country. We use the cocoa to pay our men, to build our hospitals and all kinds of roads. If we don't stop them, our country is going to go down," said James.

    One way to slow the smuggling would be to increase the price of cocoa in Ghana. But Ghana has a budget deficit so it does not have the money to support such a move.

    As long as buyers in Ivory Coast will pay more for Ghana's higher quality beans, the smuggling is likely to continue. And some Ivorians say nothing is wrong with that trade.

    Ivory Coast is the world's largest producer and exporter of the cocoa bean. These beans are needed to make chocolate. Ivory Coast, Ghana and other West African countries together produce more than 65 percent of the world's cocoa crops.

    Industry experts estimate that up to 100,000 tons of beans have been smuggled into the Ivory Coast from Ghana since last October. Industry officials say they will meet to talk about how the two countries can work together to fight the smuggling.

    And that's the VOA Learning English Agriculture Report. I'm Caty Weaver.