Côte d'Ivoire’s largest cocoa exporter is “fighting to survive” after a court ordered the liquidation of the SAF-Cacao group of companies, which includes exporter CIPEXI and processor CHOCO-IVOIRE, over unpaid debts to the country’s marketing board, the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC).
In addition to its debts to the CCC, Reuters reports SAF-Cacao is one of several exporters with outstanding bank loans.
Reuters reported last month that the country's banks were struggling to secure repayment of up to 200 billion CFA francs ($360m) lent to exporters during the country’s crisis-hit 2016-17 season, which saw the largest production surplus - ever.
The SAF-Cacao group purchases around 150,000 to 200,000 tons of cocoa annually and is thought to have around 50,000 tons of cocoa beans in its warehouses, some of which are up to two years old, and believed to be of very poor quality and therefore of low value.
“(SAF-Cacao’s) assets have been seized, including the cocoa warehouses. There’s cocoa there that belongs to the banks, so we are discussing with the CCC and the government to come to an agreement,” an unnamed banking source told Reuters.
Cocoa exporters are major borrowers, and Reuters reports that last season’s wave of defaults has raised concern that the crisis could destabilise the financial sector of one of West Africa’s largest economy.