Ecom Suspended by Ivorian Cocoa-Coffee Regulator in Auctions

Feb 24, 2014 9:12 am ET

(Updates with cocoa prices in last paragraph.)

Feb. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Ivory Coast’s cocoa and coffee regulator suspended Ecom Agroindustrial Corp. from the country’s daily crop auctions and halted exports by its Zamacom unit.

Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao said its decision, covering Ecom and its units, was prompted by the failure to pay farmers a premium for certified beans, according to a Feb. 4 letter to the company obtained by Bloomberg News. The letter didn’t specify cocoa or coffee, or give details on the certification. The CCC took “provisional measures” on Ecom, Mariam Coulibaly Dagnogo, a spokeswoman for the regulator, said by phone.

“Ecom denies that it has failed to make certification premium payments” and the suspension isn’t linked to any of Zamacom’s activities, Brian Buckley, a spokesman in London for Ecom’s public relations representative Brunswick Group, wrote in an e-mail to Bloomberg News on Feb. 21. “We are working to resolve the issue as quickly as possible.”

Ecom had sales of more than $4 billion in 2012 and handled about 280,000 metric tons of cocoa that year, according to the company. Global cocoa production totals 3.93 million tons, according to the International Cocoa Organization in London.

Ivory Coast, the world’s biggest cocoa producer, started introducing changes to its cocoa and coffee industries in 2012, including daily auctions and fixed payments to farmers. Growers with beans certified as sustainable typically receive a premium.

Cocoa futures for May delivery fell 0.2 percent to 1,844 pounds ($3,063) a ton on NYSE Liffe in London today. Prices climbed 6.6 percent this year.

--Editors: Claudia Carpenter, Michael Shanahan