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Thursday, 26 October, 2000, 11:20 GMT 12:20 UK
Cocoa hoard protects chocolate supplies
Chocoolate bars
Chocolate makers have up to two-years' supplies of cocoa in storage
Chocolate lovers rejoice. Protestors may have taken to the streets in the Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, following presidential elections at the weekend.

But the price of cocoa beans has been stable.

The country looks set for further trouble after the international community called for a fresh vote, on grounds that many candidates were barred from standing in Sunday's ballot.

But the ongoing instability in the Ivory Coast, which produces more than half the world's cocoa, has yet to force an increase in bean prices or interrupt supplies.

Supplies continue

Demonstrations earlier this week which helped force military ruler General Guei from power failed to disrupt world cocoa supplies.

Alassan Dramane Quattara
Alassan Quattara: excluded from elections

"Even with all the instability, it hasn't really affected the flow [of beans]," one analyst said.

"Farmers... want the income. So it's in their interest to keep harvesting cocoa and selling it," another said.

And while fresh protests by supporters of former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara, who was excluded from Sunday's elections, has seen blockades erected in a key port, cocoa buyers on Thursday remained relaxed.

Cocoa horde

About one half of Ivory Coast's cocoa is shipped through the blockaded port, San Pedro.

No one is hurting for lack of cocoa

Amy Prendergast, commodities analyst

But chocolate makers have sufficient reserves to survive a lengthy cut in cocoa supplies.

European chocolate manufacturers are believed to have about six months' cocoa supply in their warehouses.

In the US, Hersheys, which on Monday said low cocoa prices helped it record a 23% rise in third quarter earnings, is reckoned to have stored sufficient beans to cover up to two years of production.

Amy Prendergast, analyst at Refco, said: "No one is hurting for lack of cocoa."

High stocks

Cocoa stocks, while 17% below peaks reached at the end of May, are high by historical standards, analysts say.

Cocoa beans
Cocoa beans: in plentiful supply

Warehouses were holding 4.237 million bags of cocoa last Thursday, compared to 3.354 million bags at the end of October 1999, Prudential Securities said.

The levels of stockpiling have left demand for the beans weak, while technical sales and the release of cocoa by Ghana have further hit the market.

In London prices on Wednesday in the benchmark December futures contract slumped to 601 a tonne, the lowest level for three weeks.

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See also:

25 Oct 00 | Africa
Ivory Coast's uncertain future
25 Oct 00 | Media reports
Ivory Coast minister defects
25 Oct 00 | Media reports
Guei victory speech
24 Oct 00 | Africa
Ivorian leader told to step down
25 Oct 00 | Africa
In pictures: Ivory Coast uprising
25 Oct 00 | Media reports
Gbagbo addresses Ivorian nation
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