France protests Gbagbo cocoa grab
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France is protesting at Côte d'Ivoire strongman Laurent Gbagbo's decision to take control of key purchases and exports of cocoa, calling the move an "illegal decision". Yesterday Gbagbo ordered his government to take control of the industry, which is dominated by a number of multinational companies.
"It is a plundering of private operators which will further deepen the economic crisis into which Gbagbo - who has already attacked the central bank - has plunged the country," said French foreign ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero.
Gbagbo is under pressure from sanctions by the European Union. The former president of the country has refused to stand down and cede power to his rival Allassane Ouattara, widley recognised as winner of the November 2010 elections.
Carsten Fritsch, a specialist in commodities at Germany's Commerzbank, told RFI that the move could mean danger for the cocoa market.
"The risk is that cocoa prices will further rise to 1,000 dollars or even above that since the sanctions imposed by the United States and the European Union will remain for longer," he said.
Cote d'Ivoire produces nearly a third of the world's cocoa beans.
This means that " not the entire crop will enter the market, leaving the market short [...] at least for the time being," he said, adding that there has been a lot of smuggling to neighbouring Ghana.
Valero said that France has urged all international economic operators to continue blocking illegal exprotation of Ivorian cocoa, as legitimate Ivorian authorities have requested.