BusinessDay

Early rains seen boosting Nigeria’s cocoa output

Cocoa farmers in Africa’s biggest economy are optimistic that the country’s 2021/2022 cocoa mid-crop output will increase by at least five percent, despite a huge number of old cocoa trees across major states as harvest commences.

The farmers link the increase in output to the early rainfall, which has helped cocoa trees produce bigger pods, compared to last year’s mid-crop season when pods were smaller owing to dry spells.

“With the early rains and what we have seen in some key cocoa-growing states, we are very optimistic that this year’s cocoa mid-crop output will increase by between five and seven percent, compared to last year when we experienced drought,” said Adeola Adegoke, national president of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria.

“Also, some new trees will start fruiting,” he said.

Nigeria is the world’s fourth top grower of cocoa, with 255, 000 metric tons, according to data from the International Cocoa Organisation.

The country has two cocoa harvest seasons, namely smaller mid-crop (April to June), and the main crop (October to December).

The mid-crop accounts for about 30 percent of Nigeria’s cocoa output while the main crop accounts for the remaining percentage.

“The weather condition has been good this year, and we are sure that our output will increase by at least a single digit,” said Mufutau Abolarinwa, president of Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Nigeria’s biggest cocoa farmers association.

“The quality of the beans is also going to be good. Lots of organisations from the private sector are training farmers on chemical applications across the country, and this is a welcome development,” Abolarinwa said.

The optimism of higher output is across top West African cocoa-producing countries. Ivory Coast, the world’s largest grower of the commodity, Ghana, and Cameroon are also seeing early and heavy rainfall, which will help improve the quality and output of cocoa beans.

Cocoa is Nigeria’s major cash crop non-oil export earner and among the 10 commodities identified by the Nigerian government to diversify its economy away from oil.

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“Farmers are very happy with the current weather situation, unlike last year when we suffered from late rainfall,” Robo Adhuze, chief executive officer of SchokVille Limited, makers of Idan Premium Chocolates, said in a telephone interview.

He noted that the marketing of the mid-crop would commence in the first week of April, adding that the farmgate price would have been set by then.

Nigerian farmers are hopeful that the new price will rise from between N1.1million to N1.2 million per metric ton as seen during the main crop last year to about N1.2 million to N1.3 million this year.

“The price will also be favourable, and we might see a slight increase or stability in the market as the season commences,” Adhuze said.

In the international market, the price of cocoa beans has been relatively stable since the invasion as a metric ton sells for $2,513, according to data from the International Cocoa Organisation (ICO).

Adhuze said the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war would not affect the demand for the commodity as people would always consume chocolate even during war periods.

However, the ICO said there could be a potential risk in cocoa demand as Russia and Ukraine cumulatively purchase 205,000 metric tons of the beans and its semi-finished products.

“The importation of cocoa beans and cocoa semi-finished products to Ukraine (40,000 tons in cocoa beans equivalent in 2020/21) and the Russian Federation (165,000 tons in cocoa beans equivalent) are expected to decline in the rest of 2021/22 season for several reasons,” ICCO said in its February cocoa market report.

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