FILE - In this Tuesday, May 31, 2011 file photo, farmer Issiaka Ouedraogo walks past cocoa pods growing on a tree on a cocoa farm outside the village of Fangolo, near Duekoue Ivory Coast. On Friday, Jan. 5, 2018, The Associated Press reported that stories circulating on the internet about chocolate going extinct by 2050 are untrue. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
INTERNATIONAL - Ivory Coast lost an estimated 125,000 metric tons of cocoa this season through the smuggling of beans to neighboring countries where farmers and traders are paid better prices, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The industry regulator of the world’s biggest cocoa producer estimates that the country lost as much as 100,000 tons through its eastern border with Ghana and another 25,000 tons through the western boundary with Liberia and Guinea, said one of the people, who asked not to be identified because the information isn’t public. One of the biggest cocoa buyers in the country made a similar forecast, said a second person.

The estimates were calculated by subtracting the border regions’ port deliveries from the average of previous harvests. The total is the equivalent of 9.2 percent of arrivals since the beginning of the season in October through Feb. 25, according to government data.

FILE PHOTO: A farmer holds a cocoa pod on a cocoa farm at Guire, Ivory Coast
Mariam Dagnogo, a spokeswoman for Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao, the regulator, didn’t answer calls seeking comment.

Ivory Coast is struggling to contain cocoa smuggling this season after the country lowered the minimum price for farmers by more than a third to the equivalent of $1,314 per ton as international contract prices declined. The change opened an unusual payment gap with Ghana, the second largest cocoa producer, which left its minimum producer price unchanged at the equivalent of $1,700 per ton.

The government and regulator will review border security ahead of the smallerof the two annual harvests which begins in April, said one of the people.

- BLOOMBERG