Europe’s confectioners and biscuit makers have admitted that a temporary ban of cocoa shipments from Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s largest cocoa exporter, has created “a very testing time” for the industry.

Alassane Ouattara, the internationally recognised winner of last November’s presidential election in the African country, yesterday (24 January) announced a one-month suspension on exports of cocoa. He said that anyone not adhering to the ban would be considered to be “financing the illegitimate regime” of Laurent Gbagbo, the incumbent Ivory Coast leader, who is refusing to stand down after the elections.

Sabine Nafziger, secretary general of the Belgium-based chocolate, confectionery and biscuits association Caobisco, said its members are working with their suppliers to “obtain further clarification” on the call for a ban.

“It will take time to carefully assess the potential implications of the cocoa export suspension on our members’ businesses, as well as on the entire cocoa supply chain from farmer to consumer,” Nafziger said.

“We very much hope for a quick and peaceful resolution to the current situation of uncertainty, political tensions and related social unrest.”

Cocoa prices have soared on the back of the call for a ban on exports. However, Nafziger said, in the short term, the suspension will not impact the sector’s ability to manufacture chocolate products.

“Time, patience and a common sense approach to the difficulties and delays that may arise are required in order that we sustain no long term damage to Ivorian cocoa farming communities and the cocoa and chocolate industry,” Nafziger said.