The vice-chairman of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Thomas Ekpenriebe, has said the currently foreign buyers are not patronising Nigerian cocoa because its bean count is very low compared to others.
He said this in an interview with journalists in Benin while speaking on the challenges facing cocoa farmers in Edo State.
“The bean count of our cocoa is very low; 300 seeds, or at most 310 or 320 are supposed to give you a kilo. So, if 300 didn’t give you a kilo, it means the seeds didn’t do well and the weight would be less.
“Foreign buyers are not making profit because by the time they peel the seeds, the beans inside would not be encouraging. So they don’t buy our cocoa now, but they are waiting until the beans count appreciates before they start.
“So, for two months now, that led to the reduction in price from N1,100 to N900 or N950. Cocoa farmers are losing N200 or N150 per kilo,” he said.
He attributed the development to short rainfall in the country, coupled with the fact that cocoa farmers are not into irrigation in the southern part of the country, adding that once there is irrigation or adequate rainfall, the challenges of bean count would have been overcome for the benefit of farmers.
“Presently, there is cocoa but no money outside. Even those that are ready to buy reduce the price from N1,150 per kilo to N900 or N950, depending on the area per kg instead of N1,100 two months ago. That’s one challenge,’’ he noted.
He lamented that one of the challenges faced by cocoa farmers was climate change, which he said had affected the rainy season.
“Since June 1 in our area, we have not seen rain, and this is the time when farmers are supposed to be transplanting cocoa but there’s no rain; and before you know it, dry season will set in and the cocoa may die. This, among others, is affecting us,’’ he said.
He lamented that following the development, people were switching from cocoa to plant oil palm, which is weather-resistant.
According to him, Ondo cocoa farmers are doing better than their counterparts in Edo State due to government intervention, which is lacking in the state.
While calling on both the federal and state governments to encourage cocoa farming, he appealed to the federal government to add derivatives, such as cocoa juice or chocolate to its school feeding programme to encourage local consumption and production.
He said, “We approached the federal government in 2016, saying that cocoa drink should be added to the school feeding programme. That’s what Ivory Coast is doing and they are making it. In production, they process 40 to 60 per cent and ship 40 per cent abroad. The same thing is happening in Ghana, but here in Nigeria, how many people are eating chocolate?”