|Gbagbo remains defiant in the face of mounting global pressure demanding that he cede power to his rival [EPA]
Laurent Gbagbo, the disputed president of Cote d'Ivoire, has issued a decree under which the state becomes the sole purchaser of cocoa in the world's top grower and handles its export to global markets.
Monday's announcement, made on state television, comes as renewed clashes break out in the West African country.
"The export of products in the coffee and cocoa sector are to be carried out by the state, by those mandated by the state, or holders of an exporter's licence under terms determined by the decree," state television said.
Cocoa futures have broken 30-year highs since a disputed election in November that has triggered a power struggle between Gbagbo and rival presidential claimant Alassane Ouattara, who is internationally recognised to have won the vote.
Ouattara had earlier called for a month-long ban on cocoa exports in an attempt to cut off a key revenue generator for Gbagbo, who refused to cede power in the face of mounting international pressure.
Under the new Gbagbo decree, the state would purchase cocoa beans from farmers at a price determined by it and would then seek to get it to world markets, replacing the role of exporters who have widely followed a call by Ouattara to suspend supplies.
Cocoa supplies have been strangled by a combination of sanctions and the near-collapse of the local banking system, jeopardising a lucrative source of revenues for Gbagbo, who needs to ensure payment of army and public sector salaries to remain in power.
Spectre of civil war
The mechanics of how Gbagbo's isolated government would get the cocoa beans to world markets were not immediately clear.
The European Union had banned its ships from entering Ivorian ports. And a top US exporter of Ivorian beans, announced in January that it had suspended Ivorian exports, with most major suppliers following suit.
The squeeze has meant that some 475,000 tonnes -- over a third of annual output -- of unexported cocoa beans are sitting at Ivorian ports, according to industry regulatory data released earlier on Monday.
Once a vibrant economy in West Africa, Cote d'Ivoire now faces the spectre of a renewed civil war as the crisis over the disputed presidential election deepens.
On Sunday, the New Forces rebels, who are allied with the UN-recognised Ouattara, have said that they captured the town of Toulepleu after a fierce battle in the country's volatile west near the border with Liberia.