Cocoa output in Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest producer, is expected to rise less than expected as heavy rains in the southern growing belt are seen cutting production, according to Cocoa Association of Nigeria.
There should be a “small increase” in output for 2013-14 from an estimated 250,000 metric tons last year, Lagos-based Robo Adhuze, a spokesman for the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said. He said production would be lower than the January forecast for a 10 percent increase and declined to be more specific.
Nigeria’s recent measures of distributing fertilizers and early-maturing, high-yielding, disease-resistant beans led the association to expect a bigger crop this year. Heavy rains, which increase the risk of disease spreading, are cutting expectations, Abang Neji, a farmer and association board member, said in an interview from Ondo.
“The rains are becoming heavier in southeast, with the risk of spreading blackpod,” Neji said. “Output is lower for the mid-crop.” Blackpod, which thrives in wet, humid conditions, rots cocoa pods and is the most destructive disease for the country’s cocoa trees, Neji said. The government plans to begin distribution of fungicides next week to help farmers deal with it, Neji said.
In the southwest Ondo state, which accounts for as much as 40 percent of Nigeria’s cocoa, “there are stable rains and sunshine,” and farmers are expected to harvest more than last year, Adhuze said.
“Support from the government, good weather in the southwest and improved earnings by farmers are helping,” Adhuze said. The farm-gate prices for cocoa beans increased 12 percent to 470,000 naira ($2,892) per ton from 420,000 naira in January, which enables more farmers to buy agrochemicals to protect their crops, Adhuze said.
Nigeria’s main crop begins in October and ends in January, while the smaller mid-crop season usually begins in March and ends in June. The start and end dates of the seasons may vary each year depending on the weather.
Africa’s biggest economy ranks behind Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia as the world’s largest cocoa producer, according to the London-based International Cocoa Organization.