The European Union has asked the Ivory Coast, the world's top producer of cocoa, to abolish a law that requires all cocoa beans to be exported in jute bags. This would mean effectively that cocoa could only be exported in 60 kg or 65 kg bags rather than in bulk.
Bulk shipments were introduced four years ago and have the support of most exporters and grinders in the country. At present, 50 per cent of the Ivory Coast's cocoa export is shipped out in bulk, and cocoa exporters have set up bulk loading facilities in Abidjan and San Pedro ports.
The EU claims that this decree would lead to unnecessary costs for exporters. According to a memorandum obtained by Reuters, the implementation of the decree would create a clear conflict of economic interests within the country.
Ivory Coast's industry ministry disagrees. It claims that using jute bags preserves the quality of beans and cuts the risk of loss and theft. The EU on the other hand believes that the quality of cocoa beans would just as easily be preserved in bulk shipments.
There are fears among exporters that the law, which has not yet been implemented, will come into force shortly. The EU supports these worries, claiming that the decree would mean higher costs for shippers and chocolate manufacturers.
The EU has also warned Ivory Coast officials that the decree may even contravene World Trade Organisation rules.