Over 20 cocoa suppliers have staged a protest at the head office of a cocoa and coffee processing and export enterprise named COTEC. The protest took place on Monday January 10th 2022 in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala.
Weeks after having supplied cocoa as per their contract, the company, they say, has failed to pay what is due them.
Mr Bastin, a French national said to be leading the enterprise, they added has since gone ‘missing’.
“He would not receive us, nor take our calls. This is not the first time it’s happening. At the heart of cocoa harvest season, we are stranded,” explains one of the suppliers.
The irate suppliers say the frenchman has not showed up at his office despite their numerous protests.
After supplying cocoa since December 12, 2021, COTEC, they reveal, has failed to pay the millions owed them.
They have since blocked the entrance to his structure, demanding that no one leaves or enters the premises till their debts are settled.
Today’s protest is one of many others that have gone on for the past days with no solution in sight.
“Everyday we have been coming here to protest, he does not even come to his office. Only the workers are there and they say they have nothing to say. He has never come to address us,” one of the cocoa suppliers named Simon [not real name] told Mimi Mefo Info.
The last time they protested, he said, COTEC “… gave us money like 10 or 15 million depending on what you supplied. We gave them a week to prepare the money and when we came there was still no money. We are here today again!”
‘Lost’ cocoa season
This particular trader said he is owed the sum of 54,986,000 FCFA.
Happening at a time the cocoa season is coming to an end, COTEC’s refusal to pay is making preparations for the next season hard for him.
“This is the heart of the cocoa season coming to an end but we can not work… I am based in Munyenge the war zone,” he revealed, adding that some of his workers have even been abducted by separatist fighters, pending ransom payment.
“We are living in a very dreaded zone. How can government let a foreigner to come here and operate without paying people?” Simon questioned.
A similar challenge is faced by many other cocoa suppliers who spoke to MMI. “I am at COTEC everyday. I am expecting 49 million francs. He was supposed to have paid me on the 20th of December and he has not respected it,” another supplier, Jude [not real name] told MMI.
The silence of COTEC authorities, he noted, only makes matters worse.
“My money is with him and I am unable to buy more cocoa from local suppliers” Jude cried out.
Lack of appropriate competition
The lack of other viable cocoa buyers is a challenge cocoa suppliers and farmers continue to face over the years.
Despite the presence of TELCA cocoa, another cocoa purchasing enterprise, supplying to them remains hard, MMI gathered.
To Simon, “the problem facing Telca is that there is too much cocoa. When your car gets there, it may take you 20 days for it to be offloaded. The problem there is space, so drivers are refusing to go there and that is what pushes us to come to COTEC.”
Mimi Mefo Info