As Stakeholders worry over Nigeria’s failure to tap $493 million cocoa potential
Nigerian production for 2019/20 could dip about 3-5% to around 305,000 tonnes due to excessive rainfall, Riman said, estimating 2018/19 output at 310,000 tonnes. The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) puts the 2018/19 forecast at 250,000 tonnes.
Despite being the world’s leading cocoa producers, the two countries exert limited influence over international prices. Cocoa producing countries have sought ways to protect farmers from market swings after global overproduction sent prices crashing in 2016-17, and oversupply has meant a slow recovery.
Initial harvests of Nigeria’s main-crop cocoa arriving at ports and warehouses show high levels of mold in the major producing southwest region due to a prolonged wet season, according to commodities inspection agents and buyers.
Cocoa beans inspected in a sample of warehouses in the region are showing mold in the range of 18 percent to 24 percent, compared with a maximum of 4 percent required by the International Cocoa Organization, Remi Adebayo, managing director of Lagos-based D. Clay Inspection Ltd., said by phone on Monday. Between 500 metric tons and 750 tons of cocoa are coming weekly into Lagos, where the main ports are located, he said.
Beans from the southeast show lower mold levels of between 9 percent and 12 percent, according to Adebayo.
Persistent rains since July in the country’s southern cocoa-growing belt, apart from fostering mold in the beans due to inadequate sunshine to dry them, also encouraged the rapid spread of the fungal black pod disease that causes pods to shrink and trees to wither. Many farms were also washed away by floods.
“We kept the harvested beans under storage without the heat that good fermentation requires and the sunshine for proper drying,” Mershack Ojetola, a licensed buying agent, said by phone from the southwestern town of Modakeke, explaining why his beans recorded a high rate of mold.
Nigeria currently ranks joint fifth with neighboring Cameroon among the world’s biggest cocoa producers, with the International Cocoa Organization estimating its 2017-18 output at 240,000 tons. The local cocoa association estimates that production will be little changed in the 2018-19 season due to start in October.
The West African country has two cocoa seasons comprising the smaller midcrop running from April to June, and the main crop from October to December, which accounts for about 70 percent of output. Cocoa was down 0.1 percent at $2,233 per ton as of 1:58 p.m. in London for Dec. 18 deliveries.
Meanwhile Agric stakeholders have decried the current failure of the country to exploit the untapped $493 million potential in cocoa industry.
The National Coordinator, LUGAVO and Women Leader, All Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Halima Njobdi, in a chat with this newspaper, explained that Nigeria was not doing enough to shore up its cocoa production as well as boost its global cocoa presence.
Njobdi blamed the Federal Government and other agric agencies for the $493 million deficit in the industry.
According to her, Nigeria is blessed with huge deposit of cocoa, which could catapult the country’s non-oil sector.
The AFAN chairperson noted that government policies in the agric sector were part of the reasons responsible for the failure in the sector.
She explained that with the amount of cocoa deposit running into billions of naira, there is need for the Federal Government to unveil friendly policies to check the lapses.
She said aggressive production of cocoa would enable Nigeria leapfrog from its current position on the global stage.
The LUGAVO founder rued the country’s relegation to the seventh position among cocoa producers in the world, noting that inability of the country to meet her cocoa export target was costing the economy $1 billion yearly in revenue loss.
She noted that of late, Nigeria had been struggling to meet her 500,000 metric tons (mt) of processed cocoa production target for export.
To her, cocoa producers are facing turbulent challenges in the sector, adding that this is the reason the country is unable to meet its production target set by the International Cocoa Organisation.
Also confirming the country’s $493 million untapped cocoa potential, the General Manager, British American Tobacco Nigeria (BATN) Foundation, Ololade Johnson-Agiri, said it was worrisome to see that the country had abundant cocoa crops, while processing it for export has been a problem.
She noted that the foundation was working with the Bank of Agriculture to ensure that Nigerian farmers aggressively develop the country’s cocoa production.
It will be recalled that recently President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Instrument of Accession to the International Cocoa Agreement, 2010.
A statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, stated that the signed instrument was as a sequel to approval by the Federal Executive Council for Nigeria to accede to the agreement.
“Following the execution of the instrument of accession, Nigeria undertakes ‘faithfully to abide by all the stipulations contained’ in the agreement.
“Among other benefits, the agreement is expected to strengthen cooperation between exporting and importing member countries; improve their cocoa economies through active and better focused project development and strategies for capacity-building.
“The 2010 agreement is also expected to build on the successes of the 2001 agreement by ‘implementing measures leading to an increase in the income of cocoa farmers and by supporting cocoa producers in improving the functioning of their cocoa economies.
“It will also ‘deliver cocoa of better quality, take effective account of food-safety issues and help establish social, economic and environmental sustainability, so that farmers are rewarded for producing cocoa that meets ethical and environmental considerations,” Shehu stated.