IVORY COAST – Ivory Coast, the world’s leading cocoa producer, has unveiled that it plans to stamp out illegal cocoa production from national parks and forest reserves over the next five years.

As the West African country aims at achieving sustainable cocoa sourcing, the move will also the country to better control its cocoa output and support a new floor price, say officials from the government and its cocoa regulator.

A report by Reuters reveals that the plan will be announced this week at a meeting in Abidjan where officials from Ivory Coast and Ghana will discuss details of the strategy to establish the floor price with the industry.

In June this year, Ghana and Ivory Coast agreed to fix a minimum price of US$2,600 for a ton free-on-board that chocolate companies must pay from the 2020/21 season.

The world’s top two producers – accounting for more than 60% share of global supply – said during a recent meeting with stakeholder in Ghana that the move seeks to ensure stakeholders in the value chain give farmers a fair price that reflects their contribution to the sustenance of the cocoa industry.

However, the decision has sparked various reactions in the global cocoa market with some industry players warning that the plan could overstimulate production, particularly in Ivory Coast, leading to a global price crash.

“If we can’t control our cocoa production, it will be difficult to stick to and enforce the floor price, because a structural production surplus will drag prices down,” notes one official with the Coffee and Cocoa Council (CCC), Ivory Coast’s regulator.

The new measures — a legal framework for which is due to be approved by parliament soon — will include possible jail time for those caught growing cocoa inside forest reserves and national parks, the officials said.

Cocoa production in Ivory Coast has significantly increased in the past years rising from 1.175-million tons in 2000 to 1.8-million tons 2015.

However, nearly half of the protected forests managed by the Ivorian agency, Sodefor — about 740,000ha — were destroyed through deforestation during the period.

Currently, about a quarter of Ivory Coast’s annual production of more than 2-million tons comes from protected land, the ministry of water and forests estimates.

“The goal is that all this cocoa grown in the forest reserves and national parks will no longer be available. It must be destroyed. We’re talking 300,000 to 500,000 tons each season,” said an official from CCC.

He added that the plan is to eliminate illegally grown cocoa volumes over the next five years.

The government will also expel illegal farmers and destroy their plantations as seen previously where two rounds of evictions, in 2013 and 2016, displaced tens of thousands of farmers.

The officials said the new strategy will allow for the gradual removal of illegal farmers in order to avoid a negative social impact. About 1.3-million people live illegally on Sodefor-managed land, the agency estimates.