By Godwin Oritse, with agency report

ABOUT 31,760 metric tons of cocoa meant for export are presently trapped on the roads en-route Lagos ports, the Cocoa Exporters Association of Nigeria (CEAN) has said.

File: Gridlock as tankers shut down Apapa road

CEAN lamented that the roads to the port which are in various states of disrepair are delaying exporters from taking their products to the port for export.

Similarly, another shipment of 1,760 tons of cocoa butter and cake are also held up in the gridlock as the economy continues to pay the price for years of neglect of port access roads.

The affected cargoes are either locked down in traffic gridlock or stored in transit warehouses in Lagos.

“A greater part of this travel time is spent at the epicentre of the congestion which is just 6 kilometres (3.7 miles) to the ports,” Pius Ayodele, president of the cocoa exporters’ organisation said.

Shipment delays are making it difficult for exporters to get credit from banks to finance their operations, according to Akin Olusuyi, President, Cocoa Processors Association of Nigeria, who said 1,760 tons of cocoa butter and cake are held up in the gridlock to the ports.

“Most of them have been in the traffic to the ports for close to three weeks and are still far away from the ports’ gates. The cargoes that would have translated into export proceeds for us are locked up in that horrific traffic,” he said.

“Travel time to Apapa and Tin Can Island ports that previously take few hours, now takes as much as four weeks as trucks struggle through cratered and water-logged roads to get there, Ayodele added.

According to Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), “Nigeria currently ranks a joint fifth position with neighbouring Cameroon among the world’s biggest cocoa producers, with the International Cocoa Organisation (ICO) estimating its 2017-18 output at 240,000 Mt.

Access roads to the ports were left to decay by a succession of governments over the past two decades, now slowing everything ranging from cocoa exports to gasoline imports, escalating costs and taking a significant toll on economic activity.”

Haulage costs have gone up by “about 400 per cent because of the turn-around time to get to the ports, to get loaded and get out of the ports,”  Director-General, LCCI, Muda Yusuf, said in an interview in Lagos.

Yusuf noted that this will either erode the profit margins of companies or get passed on to consumers.

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