Nigeria’s cocoa production will dip by 10,000 metric tonnes (MT) to 245,000MT in 2018/2019, from 255,000MT recorded in the 2017/2018 season, the International Cocoa Association (ICCO) has predicted.
Even though BusinessDay could not immediately access the ICCO report so as to ascertain the reasons for its prediction, industry stakeholders say the predicted decline in the 2018/2019 production could be as a result of extreme weather conditions that could manifest themselves in crop failures, pest and diseases outbreak and degradation of land.
“I believe that the ICCO prediction of a lower cocoa output for Nigeria in 2018/2019 season is as a result of weather issues,” Sayina Rima, president, Cocoa Farmers Association, told BusinessDay from his Ikom Farm in Nigeria’s south-south region.
Africa’s most populous nation now ranks fourth in cocoa production, with 255,000MT in the 2017/2018 cocoa season, according to recent data from ICCO.
Nigerian farmers earned $497 million from export of cocoa last year. To arrive at this figure, we calculated that the average price of cocoa for 2018 was $2,294 when Nigeria’s production was put at 255,000MT. Nigeria exports 85 percent of its annual cocoa produce. Eighty-five percent of 255,000MT, which is 216,750MT, multiplied by the average price of $2,294 gives $497 million.
“Last year, despite that we had a very good midcrop season, floods in the third quarter of the year grossly affected our main crop production,” Rima said.
He added that high-yielding lowlands were taken over by last year’s floods which cut the country’s production for the period.
The Nigerian Metrological Services (NiMET) earlier in 2019 predicted late onset of rainfall and early cessation of rainfall in most parts of the country. Experts say this would affect the main crop which normally accounts for about 70 percent of Nigeria’s cocoa output while the midcrop accounts for the remaining percentage.
Nigeria has two cocoa harvests seasons – the smaller midcrop from April to June and the main crop from October to December.
The predicted fall in the country’s 2018/2019 production output may also be as a result of ageing cocoa trees and limited use of pesticides, some experts said.
“The preponderance of very old tree stocks with most over 30 years results in low yields often less than 400kg per hectare and vulnerable to pest infestation,” said Peter Aikpokpodion, an expert in cocoa improvement and value chain development.
“Limited use of pesticides to control black pod disease at the right time and recommended rates also leads to severe loss of yield on the farm. A recent field visit shows that the cocoa swollen shoot virus (CSSV) disease, which is a major yield-limiting disease, has become a significant constraint that needs urgent attention,” Aikpokpodion said.
Currently, farmers in major cocoa growing regions are harvesting for the midcrop season which has commenced since late March.
Experts say there is going to be an increase in production for the midcrop owing to current favourable weather conditions.
“With the cocoa pods I have seen across the main growing region, there is going to be an increase in midcrop output compared to last year,” said Robo Adhuze, chief operating officer, Centre for Cocoa Development Initiative.
“The rains are falling now and the sun is shining as well for farmers to dry their beans very well. But what the total output would be at the end of the year depends mainly on the main crop season,” Adhuze said.
The Cocoa Association believes that output for midcrop will increase by 31 percent.