IBADAN, Nigeria–The supply of pods of the eight new varieties of hybrid cocoa developed in Nigeria should be increased and given to farmers for planting to increase cocoa production in the West African country, the Cocoa Association of Nigeria said.
At a national meeting in Akure, association officials said that the inadequate supply of the new pods has hindered the effort to increase the country’s cocoa production over the years.
The eight varieties were launched in September 2011 by scientists at the state-run Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, who said the varieties would help raise Nigeria’s cocoa production to 1 million tons by 2022.
Nigeria, according to its trade groups, currently produces around 280,000 to 300,000 tons of cocoa per season.
“The country is capable of increasing its cocoa production tremendously if the pods of the new cocoa varieties are produced in very large quantities and supplied either free or at subsidized rates to farmers for planting,” said an association official who attended the national meeting on Friday.
One of the resolutions passed at the meeting urged the federal government to increase funding to the Cocoa Research Institute to produce more pods of the new cocoa varieties for distribution to farmers. The pods are used to rehabilitate old cocoa farmers or plant new ones.
Institute scientists said the new eight varieties have high yields averaging 1.5 tons-2.0 tons a hectare each year, compared with the current yield of 0.5 tons a hectare annually. In addition, they are early-yielding, maturing in two years compared to three-to-four years for the older existing varieties and are resistant to pests and diseases, especially the black pod disease and attacks by mirid bugs.
Some other characteristics of the new cocoa are that they meet the needs of cocoa processors with a high butter content of at least 55%, superior cocoa base chocolate quality and excellent bean quality.
Soji Oduwole, director of the Economics and Statistics Department of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, said in an interview with Dow Jones Newswires in December last year, that in the past two years the institute had produced 600,000 pods or seedlings of the new cocoa varieties with funds from the federal government and they were distributed to each of the cocoa producing states in Nigeria for planting, he said.
“Most of the new plantings are just coming out, they are just about two years old and they are starting to produce on a small scale,” Mr. Oduwole said.