Diversification Crops

Ivory Coast Table of Contents

In the mid-1970s, the government undertook major efforts to diversify export crops and end its dependence on cocoa and coffee. In the forest zone, diversification products were palm oil, coconut oil, and rubber, all of which enjoyed a comparative advantage on the international market. In the 1980s, Côte d'Ivoire had become the largest palm oil exporter in Africa, and the 1987 harvest of 215,000 tons made Côte d'Ivoire one of the world's largest producers. In 1985 an expansion program called for planting 65,000 additional hectares of oil palms and constructing four new industrial plantations. With some 15,000 hectares of new plantings each year, production was expected to continue its rise. At the same time, production costs in Côte d'Ivoire were high, perhaps reflecting the fact that individual holdings were small and often located on less productive land.

In 1987 Côte d'Ivoire's rubber production totaled 38,700 tons, and there were plans to increase production to 80,000 tons a year by 1990. This increase would place the country ahead of Liberia, then the largest African producer of natural rubber. The number of hectares under rubber cultivation increased sixfold from 1960 to 1984, from 7,243 to 43,634 hectares.

In the north, or savanna zone, cotton and sugar were the chief diversification crops. Cotton was first introduced during the colonial period by the French Textile Development Company (Compagnie Française de Développement des Textiles--CFDT), which at independence became the Ivoirian Textile Development Company (Compagnie Ivoirienne de Développement des Textiles--CIDT). Cotton became economically important only after independence. In 1965 there were some 12,000 hectares of cotton, and by 1979, these were 123,000 hectares. Production leveled off in the early 1980s but picked up again between 1981 and 1984. Cotton (fiber and cottonseed) production in 1986-87 set a new record of 213,506 tons, compared with (fiber and cotton seed) the previous season's 190,000 tons and the country's previous record of 205,000 tons in 1984-85, making Côte d'Ivoire the third largest cotton producer in Africa, after Egypt and Sudan. Cotton fiber production over the same period amounted to 91,000 tons (1987), 75,000 ton (1986), and 88,000 tons (1985). Côte d'Ivoire exported about 80 percent of its crop.

Côte d'Ivoire was Africa's eighth largest sugar producer, with a yield of nearly 144,000 tons in 1987, more than half of which was exported. Industrial sugar production began only in the early 1970s with the creation of SODESUCRE, a parastatal that constructed and operated six large industrial sugar refineries located at Ferkéssédougou (Ferké I and Ferké II) and four smaller towns in the savanna region (By 1987 two of the factories had been closed.) In 1982 these complexes contributed about 3 percent of the agricultural GDP.

The colonial government introduced bananas for export in 1931, and by 1961 the fruit was the second largest earner of foreign exchange. The principal production areas lay between Aboisso and Divo. Exported varieties, which are larger and sweeter than native fruits, were harvested year round. French settlers owned the first plantations; by 1961 holdings by Africans amounted to about onethird of the 6,500 hectares under cultivation for export. By the mid-1980s, the fraction in land or in corporations held by foreigners dropped to less than 10 percent. Production for 1985 came to 163,000 tons, of which only 105,000 tons were exportable. In the mid-1980s, Côte d'Ivoire routinely fell short of its allotted export quota to Europe, in part because labor shortages adversely affected the quality of the fruit.

Pineapples have been raised commercially only since 1950. In 1961 less than 600 hectares were cultivated; Africans owned approximately one-half the area. By 1986, under the impetus of government encouragement and support, 438,000 hectares were under cultivation. Production amounted to approximately 250,000 tons, up from 195,000 tons a year earlier, of which 180,000 tons were exported as fresh fruit. The remainder of the harvest was canned locally. The major producing area was near Abidjan.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress