Ebola cri­sis spurs Nestlé to boost co­coa ship­ments

CityPress - - Business -

The Ebola epi­demic in west Africa is spurring food and bev­er­age company Nestlé to speed up co­coa ship­ments from African coun­tries such as Ivory Coast, the world’s largest pro­ducer, said CEO Paul Bul­cke.

“If it hits the Ivory Coast, we’re go­ing to have a stand­still,” he said.

“We have a sys­tem where we fix cer­tain prices for cer­tain times, but not too long be­cause we’re not spec­u­la­tors, but to have sta­bil­ity in our cost.”

Nestlé, the world’s big­gest food company, is work­ing to buf­fer it­self against costlier co­coa and sees in­creas­ing prices on re­tail prod­ucts as a last re­sort, said Bul­cke.

Co­coa has jumped 15% this year, reach­ing $3 113 (R34 023) a ton this week in New York.

Ivory Coast is bor­dered to the west by Liberia and Guinea, two of the three coun­tries struck hard­est by Ebola. With Sierra Leone, that trio of na­tions has 9 911 cases of the virus, the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion has re­ported. Almost half of the in­fec­tions have been fa­tal.

Nestlé has re­stricted em­ployee travel to the af­fected re­gion and said its op­er­a­tions were on high alert.

The company op­er­ates in the west African coun­tries of Ivory Coast, Ghana and Nige­ria.

Ivory Coast is alone among that group in shar­ing a land bor­der with one of the na­tions at the heart of the out­break. Ivory Coast and Ghana sup­ply about 60% of the world’s co­coa. Bul­cke said he did not think the epi­demic would spread to ar­eas where Nestlé op­er­ated although con­tin­gency plans are in place.

Nestlé said it faced a chal­leng­ing fourth quar­ter after nine-month sales missed es­ti­mates. The maker of KitKat said business in its Asian and African units had be­come tougher, cit­ing po­lit­i­cal tur­moil and, in Africa, Ebola.

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