3:03pm

Mon January 24, 2011
The Two-Way

Cocoa Buyers Start Cutting Off Purchases From Ivory Coast

"Cocoa traders are shutting down operations in Ivory Coast, in accordance with calls by the country's internationally recognised president-elect to put pressure on Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent who has refused to step down," The Financial Times reports.

This is a potentially critical development in the effort to put Alassane Ouattara, who the international community recognizes as the legitimate winner of last November's election, into office. As The Wall Street Journal writes, "Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa exporter, accounting for about 40% of the world markets. The cash crop is grown mainly by small-holder farmers with less than a couple of acres of land, yet exports provide almost one-third of the country's gross domestic product."

The U.S. State Department has endorsed Quattara's call for a month-long ban on cocoa exports from Ivory Coast. "Laurent Gbagbo needs to get the message and step down," State spokesman Philip J. Crowley tweeted this afternoon.

While cutting off exports could fuel more violence in Ivory Coast, The Independent notes that "any stoppage in exports would [also] cut funding that Mr Gbagbo relies on to stay in power."

Cocoa prices are on the rise because of this news.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been following the turmoil in Ivory Coast. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.