The local subsidiary of Swiss food titan Nestlé said it has resumed the purchase of coffee beans in Côte d'Ivoire (formerly Ivory Coast).

Nestlé sources said the company's seven purchasing centres upcountry are offering a reference farmgate price of 300 CFA francs (US$0.45) for a kilogram of good quality, dehulled coffee, reported Reuters. This represents a 20% improvement on prices paid last year.

Company sources indicated that the world coffee market had risen, so prices were bound to be higher in Côte d'Ivoire too. The recent upturn in coffee futures has been good news for coffee growers frustrated by the price slump registered since late 1999. A glut of product was exacerbated by sluggish demand in importing countries as consumers switched over to beverages.

The prime coffee buying season in Côte d'Ivoire is not yet upon us, as it normally starts after the cocoa season has peaked in December. Accordingly, Nestlé said its purchase quantities were modest at the moment, but said it hoped the message would get out to growers that the company is now ready to buy.

There is concern among coffee farmers and distributors that they will have insufficient manpower to pick all the beans as many workers have fled the country, where political stability is fragile.