Nigeria was a cocoa powerhouse in Africa, thanks to the old Western region. PELUMI BOLAWA writes on ways the country tries to bounce back
Cocoa is a small perennial tree crop that primarily comes from three tropical regions – Southeast Asia, Latin America and West Africa. Ivory Coast is the single largest producer of cocoa beans, accounting for approximately 31 per cent of the world’s supply. Other leading cocoa farming countries include Brazil, Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria, according to International Institute Tropical Agriculture.
Centre for Public Policy Alternatives said, “Cocoa crop thrives in tropical climate, and production, is therefore, dominated by countries in those regions, while consumption is mostly by countries in temperate regions of the world. West Africa is a major producer, accounting for approximately 70 per cent of global production, which fluctuates yearly with climatic variations.”
The Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Export Promotion Council, Segun Awolowo, said, “The country earned over N103bn from cocoa products exported in 2018.”
Cocoa has a high food value, as it contains as much as 20 per cent protein, 40 per cent carbohydrate and 40 per cent fat. It also contains theobromine, an alkaloid closely related to caffeine and phenols and flavonoids, antioxidants that can inhibit cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
Nigeria is the third largest producer of cocoa in West Africa, behind Ivory Coast and Ghana. While the crop is sometimes farmed on a large scale in Nigeria, the sector is dominated by small-scale farmers and remains a critical source of livelihood for rural populations in states where the crop is produced.
As Nigeria faces regression in cocoa production, the crop in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, with less number of hectares, is enjoying boom and has overtaken Nigeria in productivity per hectare in several folds.
Ivory Coast, as of August 3, 2020, cumulative cocoa records, since the 2019/20 season started, established 2.043 million tonnes, down by 5.4 per cent from the 2.160 million tons reached during the same period the previous season.
According to International Cocoa Organisation, Ghana Cocoa Board, despite the Coronavirus Disease, reported a total purchase of 742,725 tonnes for the 2019/2020 cocoa season as of June 4, 2020.”
In Nigeria, cocoa-producing states include Ondo, Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Ekiti, where farmers either operate on inherited field or operate a share cropping system, in which two-third of the produce accrues to the land-owner, who also contributes to purchase of farming input. Others are Kwara, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara, Kogi and Benue states.
Osun, Ondo and Cross River states are reported to contribute approximately 68 per cent of Nigeria’s yearly cocoa output, which reached a high of 350,000 metric tonnes in 2014, while in 2013, Nigeria recorded 238,000 tonnes. The Ministry of Trade and Industry reported that Nigeria made $1.3bn from cocoa export.
In Ekiti, Establishment of Cocoa Clona Garden and Rehabilitation and Cocoa Seedlings Production have zero allocation despite the state being a major producer of cocoa in the country.
Ogun State Government earmarked N21.634bn, approximately 17 per cent of the total budget for agriculture in its 2020 budget proposal, but specific allocations to production of cash crops, including cocoa, are not clearly indicated.
Production decline in Nigeria
At present, Nigeria is facing declining returns because of inconsistency in the pattern of production, disease and pest attack. Low levels of mechanisation with dependence on subsistence farming plays greater role in low level productivity, especially in South West states that contribute nearly 80 per cent of national cocoa yields.
National Bureau of Statistics’ Top Products by Imports and Exports Q1, 2020, indicated that production of cocoa as cash crop dropped due to inadequate financing, among other factors. This is despite that cocoa is the nation’s leading cash crop in terms of export and second highest foreign exchange earner.
Although reports are conflicting, annual cocoa yields for Nigeria are generally estimated at an average of between 300,000 and 350,000. Reports also set production per hectare at 0.38 tonnes, but these are reported to have declined to less than 0.3 hectares mostly due to reduced rainfall.
Some of the problems identified by Centre for Public Policy Alternatives include low production, high cost attendant to the establishment of nurseries and plantations, dearth of market information, high level of spoilage, low quality of beans, under-investment in agriculture, weak linkage between producers and processors/exporters, price transmission between export markets and producers.
A critical factor that affects technical efficiency was reported as the age of cocoa trees (the older the trees the less efficient), as planting younger trees to replace ageing ones will raise technical efficiency.
Genesis of decline
At the onset of the oil boom in the 1970s, many labourers moved to the urban centres to seek more lucrative opportunities. The massive movement of labourers out of the cocoa belt not only led to scarcity of labourers, but also generated a significant increase in their wages.
Chairman, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Abdulahi Jao, said, “The World Bank had advised West African countries to scrap cocoa coordinating bodies in the mid-70s and Nigeria totally complied. But Cote d’Ivoire was said not to have complied fully. Ghana rejected the neo-colonial advice. The results are there for all to see today. Those countries that refused the egregious notion are in the millionaire group of global cocoa production today.
“A number of factors account for the decline in Nigeria’s cocoa yield, among which is budgetary allocations. Finance, low production per hectare, neglect of extension services, lack of encouragement for youth participation, poor grading and quality-related issues and reluctance of banks to give loans.”
President of Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Sayina Riman, also pointed out lack of finance, the country’s low production per hectare, neglect of extension service and lack of encouragement for youth participation in farming as some of the factors responsible for the constant decline of Nigeria’s cocoa output.
He noted that one of the major challenges of the industry was total neglect. “Finances are not given when needed for the industry. How many banks will be ready to give out loans for tree crop development? As much as the Central bank of Nigeria pushes them, they still give you facility to pay in 24 months, at most,” he said.
Similarly, the Managing Director, Oluji Cocoa Products Limited, Mr. Akin Olusuyi, said, “Bank of Agriculture that should help cocoa and other farmers are located in cities, rather than in local council headquarters and villages for greater access of farmers.”
On his part, the President of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, an umbrella body for small-scale cocoa farmers, Adeola Adegoke, said, “There are challenges, which include lack of access to improved cocoa seedlings, finance, manpower and cocoa agro-chemicals.
“If you look at the situation, Nigeria is not exempted from the pandemic, which has created some gap, especially in manpower. Nevertheless, we are very hopeful that we will have good production, bearing in mind that the kind of sustainability assistance smallholders enjoy in Cote d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Ghana is not forthcoming here.”
Adegoke, further disclosed that the CBN, through the Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, was partnering with CFAN to bring the first batch of beneficiaries into the scheme, soon.
“Over 160,000 cocoa farmers were registered and uploaded to National Farmers Database Platform. The registration helped the government to determine the number of farmers targeted to benefit from the Growth Enhancement Scheme Support to cocoa farmers in Nigeria,” he added.
Former Executive Director of CRIN, Malachy Akoroda, spoke on the solution to the cocoa production challenge.
He proffered investment in production of hybrid seedlings to be developed by CRIN.
The Special Adviser to the Governor of Cross River State, Cocoa Development Board, Oscar Ofuka, said, “We want to show it to the world that we have cocoa that is of best quality. The cocoa we have in the state is of best standard.”
According to Reuters, Nigerian cocoa output is likely to drop by at least 20 per cent this season, as measures to curb the spread of the novel COVID-19 and drier weather increase the chances of a poor harvest. The news agency was quoting the president of the cocoa association.
A cocoa exporter, Mufutau Abolarinwa, said that output for the 2019/20 season declined to an estimated 250,000 tonnes, lower than the International Cocoa Organisation’s forecast of 260,000 tonnes.
“Nigeria, the world’s fifth biggest cocoa grower, has been hurt by lockdown measures initiated to curb the COCID-19 spread, as farmers have been unable to import inputs, while drier weather hindered pod formation,” Abolarinwa said.
He added that export volumes also fell. “We are expecting a poor harvest by November. For the past seven weeks, there has been no substantial rain in the cocoa regions,” he told Reuters by telephone.
The cocoa association, a body of small-scale plantation owners, exporters, aggregators and processors, said its 10-year agenda for the cocoa industry included creating 550,000 jobs, increasing revenue by N4.353tn and output from 245,000 to 714,000 metric tonnes yearly.
There is an estimate that in 2020/2021, the tonne is expected to be at an average of 270,000.
United States Agency for International Development is supporting on-farm capacity development for farmers to improve productivity and quality.
Researchers have also been supported through the Cochran Fellowship and Borlaug training programmes to build knowledge and skills.
However, yield improvement continues to be constrained by poor farm management, inadequate extension services, low farm input utilisation, farmers’ reluctance to replant old trees and slow uptake of new technology.
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