Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut has warned that the deepening crisis in the Ivory Coast could have a serious knock on effect on cocoa prices, and in turn on chocolate production.
In a statement, the company said that while there had been some improvement in cocoa trading in the last few days, the market remained concerned by fears about the impact of the unrest in the Ivory Coast, the world's biggest producer of cocoa.
The West African country is in the grip of a bitter battle between government and rebel forces, and there is no sign of an end to the conflict, despite the signing of a peace agreement in France last weekend.
More violence has broken out in the capital Abidjan since the weekend, and many western European nationals have begun fleeing the country as the situation becomes worse.
So far, most of the violence has been restricted to Abidjan, and Barry Callebaut has been forced to stop work at its processing facility there as a result. But the real threat to the cocoa and chocolate industry is the potential loss of San Pedro, the port through which most of the cocoa produced in the Ivory Coast is exported.
It is the middle of the cocoa harvest season, and San Pedro is at its busiest time of the year -a period which is now all the busier because of producers rushing to get their harvests exported before the port is closed or blocked by the war.
Barry Callebaut alone processes 100,000 tons of cocoa in the Ivory Coast, 70-75,000 tons in Abidjan and the rest in San Pedro.
With cocoa prices already rocketing because of the fear of declining supplies from the Ivory Coast, it is vital that the port remain open - if the supplies eventually are cut off, prices will push even higher, with clear knock on effects for the chocolate industry.