Over the last 5 years, Nigerian cocoa grower prices increased more than 50 per cent to the current average of N460,000 per MT. The United States imported cocoa products estimated at $40 million from Nigeria in 2010.
Currently, cocoa is one of the market’s best performing commodities in Nigeria which hit a 23 year high in December 2008 and the price reached $2,581.6 per tonne in January 2009. South West is regarded as the cocoa belt of the country, accounting for 70 per cent of Nigeria’s annual production of 242,000 metric tonnes in 2008.
However,Nigeria’scocoa production in 2011/12 is forecast at 300,000 metric tonnes, up from 280,000 metric tonnes and the projected increase is based on a favourable weather outlook and significantly higher grower prices, which would encourage farmers to increase their production. Meanwhile, the major problem with cocoa production in the country is that the majority of Nigeria’s cocoa farmers are above 60 years and most cocoa trees are even older with diminished production. Farmers are concerned about an immediate loss of income if unproductive trees are cut and replanted with the recommended new disease-resistant, high yielding and early maturing varieties.
Similary, there are factors limiting cocoa production in the country which include: Inadequate supply and high cost of recommended chemicals shortage and high cost of farm labour, non-availability and low utilisation of fertilisers, poor access roads to the major cocoa production points, government subsidies on inputs and seedlings all these are the major challenges of the seed.
As a result of its importance in terms of world production, West African producers are seeking to increase their cocoa output. Cocoa growing represents an important source of revenue for large numbers of small- scale farmers. Most plantations are family farms of 2 to10 hectares. This production is particularly significant in national economic terms because local demand for cocoa is relatively weak and therefore almost all production is for export. In Africa, cocoa beans are generally harvested in September and October, although the season can continue until January or March.
World consumption is estimated at 2 800 000 tons per year. The largest cocoa importers are Europe (more than 1.2 million tons per year) and the United States (0.4 million tons per year), the largest importers are Holland, United States, Germany, Britain and Brazil.
Furthermore in a move by the federal government to increase cocoa production from the present 300,000 tonnes to 500,000 tonnes by 2015, the minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, said that the reformed cocoa development committee released eight hybrid breed cocoa species by the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), the country could achieve the production of one million tonnes in subsequent years.
Speaking on the improvement of the seed, the minister said that government had adopted a holistic approach towards improving cocoa production which included collaborating with the 22 cocoa producing state governments. In this regard, he said that efforts were ongoing to put in place a cocoa investment fund and create new financial instrument with the banks under the value chain system.
Emphasising on the strategies put in place, Adesina said that replacement of old cocoa trees and creating seedlings for nurseries across the cocoa producing states would boost farmers access, he further challenged the committee to work out modalities towards setting up a corporation to ensure that Nigeria’s cocoa industry was productive, efficient and competitive in the global market.
He said that for easy implementation of programmes, the CBN had included cocoa in the N450 billion dollar Nigerian Incentive Base Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending.
Also, the President, Cocoa Processors of Nigeria, Mr. Akin Olusuyi, commended the efforts of government towards repositioning cocoa production under the value chain system, saying that it would enable farmers to have value for their efforts and recalled that cocoa had made impact in the nation’s economy in the past, but lost the glory due to the neglect of the agricultural sector. He stressed the need for political will to ginger stakeholders to key into the new initiatives.