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Ivory Coast president nationalizes coffee and cocoa industry

By the CNN Wire Staff
President Laurent Gbagbo's ability to control the coffee and cocoa industries could be key to his staying in power.
President Laurent Gbagbo's ability to control the coffee and cocoa industries could be key to his staying in power.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Opponent has called for a ban on cocoa exports to force Gbagbo out of power
  • Ivory Coast is the world's largest supplier of cocoa beans
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(CNN) -- Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who is fighting to keep a political title the United Nations says isn't his, on Monday nationalized the nation's two main cash crops, coffee and cocoa, according to state-run television.

In a statement read on air, the government announced that "the purchase of coffee and cocoa from producers and producer groups is done exclusively by the State on the entire national territory."

"The export of products of the coffee-cocoa sector is carried out by the State, by any legal person mandated by the State or holder of an exporter license," the government announced. "Approved exporters get their cocoa beans and green coffee from the State or any legal person mandated by the State."

The Ivory Coast is the world's largest supplier of cocoa beans.

Gbagbo, the incumbent, has refused to give up power since an electoral commission declared challenger Alassane Ouattara the winner of the November presidential election. Gbagbo's refusal to step down has sparked violent clashes between supporters of the two rivals, resulting in the deaths of 365 people since December.

Ouattara's "New Forces" loyalists claimed on the group's website to have taken the west Ivory Coast city of Toulepleu after intense fighting with Gbagbo forces on Sunday.

Gbagbo's ability to maintain control over the nation's coffee and cocoa industry could be key to his staying in power. Coffee and cocoa experts have provided the embattled leader with a lucrative revenue source to pay loyal civil servants and military officers.

In January, Ouattara called for a ban on cocoa and coffee exports in an effort to shut down that revenue stream and force Gbagbo out of office.

 
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