Heavy rains, black pod threatens Nigeria’s $764.7m cocoa output

TO GO W/ AFP STORY IN FRENCH BY David YOUANT Workers cut cocoa in the southwestern Ivorian village of Godilehiri 01 November 2007 near Divo where cocoa and coffee plantation farmers are upset with suspected misappropriation of cocoa revenue or money laundering. Ivory Coast is the world's leading producer of cocoa, which along with coffee accounts for 40 percent of the country's exports and about 20 percent of gross domestic product. A June report by Global Witness charged that cocoa helped finance low-level armed conflict that has left Ivory Coast divided in two for five years between a government-held south and a rebel north since a foiled coup bid in 2002. AFP PHOTO / ISSOUF SANOGO (Photo credit should read ISSOUF SANOGO/AFP/Getty Images)

By Tolani Awere

Black pod thrives in wet conditions, causing trees to wither

Cases recorded in Nigeria’s two main cocoa-growing regions

Nigeria’s 2019-20 cocoa crop is threatened by an attack of the fungal black-pod disease due to the wetness created by persistent rains in the main cocoa-growing areas, the industry association said.

“The losses could escalate if the rains continue far into July in its current intensity,” Sayina Riman, president of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, which groups farmers, traders and processors of the chocolate ingredient, said in a phone interview.

Meanwhile Nigeria may lose $765 million of cocoa output due to the impact of heavy rainfall and poor sunshine across the Nigeria’s cocoa-growing regions, with the likelihood of black pod disease which could hurt the crop this season.

Cocoa farmers in Nigeria under the aegis of Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) raised this alarm expressing concerns about bean quality and black pod disease in the wake of heavier rains, noting that besides preventing mould, sunny weather is also needed for a bigger bean size.

CAN’s forecast for the season was 325,000 tonnes at an estimated price of $2,353 per tonne, amounting to $764.725 million.

President of CAN, Sayina Riman, said the 2018/19 season has seen flash floods.

“Black pod is coming and it would be evident in the main crop,” he said.

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According to Riman, who farms on a 170-hectare cocoa plantation in Cross Rivers, the cocoa trees are at the fruiting stage ahead of the main crop but the weather could affect pod formation.

Cocoa trees need a delicate balance of rainy and dry weather. Too little rain and they wither; too much and they become susceptible to insects or fungal black pod disease. Beans can also go mouldy if small farmers are unable to dry them outside.

The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) forecast that the 2018/19 output will be 245,000 tonnes, whereas CAN had forecast a 30 percent rise from last season’s estimate of 250,000 tonnes, amounting to 325,000 tonnes.

Riman said the association was now waiting for the end of the mid-crop before revising its figures. He said farmgate prices have declined to around N720,000 (about $2,353) per tonne from N850,000 in January.

He, however, said that prices could recover after the world’s two biggest producers – Ivory Coast and Ghana – agreed last week to impose a price floor of $2,600 per tonne on the chocolate ingredient.

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