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Updated May 1, 2020

COVID-19 continues to strangle the supply chain of multiple industries, but now it has inconvenienced Côte d’Ivoire in particular by disrupting the trade of cashew nuts and cacao beans. The West African country is a leading global exporter of the “brown gold”, but is now facing the prospect of losing out on crucial revenue as other countries reduce imports of non-essential goods.

 

Farmer dry cashews in a plantation of cashew-apple fruits on February 19, 2016 in Bouake. According to Malamine Sanogo, director of the Conseil Coton-Anacarde (CCA), Ivory Coast has become in 2016 the most important producer of cashew nuts in the world. SIA-KAMBOU / AFP
Raw cashew nuts are dried in the sun in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire.

 

The slowdown demonstrates Côte d’Ivoire’s dependence on its primary agricultural exports.

 

Cashews are basically a lost crop this year: their harvest began in early February and the largest consumers of Ivorian cashews are East and Southeast Asia, countries that were in the throes of the viral outbreak during harvest season and have drastically cut down on demand. The slowdown demonstrates Côte d’Ivoire’s dependence on its primary agricultural exports for its economic success despite government efforts to diversify the economy.

Declining prices for products like coffee and cacao have destabilized Côte d’Ivoire in the past, notably so in the run-up to the Second Ivorian Civil War of 2010–2011. One of the root causes of the five-month conflict was believed to be dissatisfaction among farmers who struggled to provide for themselves by relying on cash crops while also having to face competition from different ethnic groups also trying to break into the agricultural sector.

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