By Bamise Dada
In Nigeria, cocoa production is traditionally for export, with less than 10% utilized for cocoa products like cocoa butter, cocoa biscuit, cocoa liquor and chocolates. However, in recent planting seasons, Nigeria continues to record a fall in cocoa production. According to information gathered from stakeholders in the cocoa value chain, Nigeria’s cocoa production dropped by 5.2 per cent from 248,000 metric tonnes in the 2013/2014 planting season to 235,000 metric tonnes in the 2014/2015 season.
Seventy year old chief Samuel Owolabi has been a cocoa farmer for over thirty seven years and a member of Cocoa Farmers Association Of Nigeria,Oke –Onigbin some miles away from Ilorin, the capital of Kwara-state, Nigeria. He says cocoa production is on a sharp decline and supply cannot meet demands because of climate change. He also says the fragile nature of cocoa tree makes it vulnerable to pests and diseases thereby leading to wastage of the cocoa pods.
“It is now about thirty seven years that I started cocoa farming, and cocoa production was high years back but we now record a fall in the production ,because the ages of the trees are going down with no support from the government to rehabilitate or replant cocoa and it is affecting production” he said
Adekunle Adedoyin prides himself as one of most experienced youth farmer in his community, but with about 5 hectares of land for cocoa plantation ,he continues to struggle to maintain the farm and protect it against pests and diseases’ attack.
“The youths are not interested in cocoa farming because they think it is a tedious activity which hardly makes huge profit, this is part of the reasons cocoa production continues to reduce” he said.
Adedoyin also says “we also have the issues of ageing trees, as you can see around we have only trees planted by our great grandparents since the year 1957 ,there is no continuity as youths have migrated to urban areas, we also do not benefit from government interventions”.
Issac Oyetayo, also a cocoa farmer , who inherited his farm from his father and has been applying modern farming techniques in Cocoa production for about twenty nine years. According to Oyetayo “Before now ,cocoa production was a huge business than we have now ,due to old age some of the trees are dying because of pest and termites and some other things. There are some weevils that attack them so they die off but we are now trying to replace those old cocoa trees by planting new ones beside them as replacements”
With investment of about N400,000 annually to maintain one of his seven hectares of cocoa farm, he says the future production is not looking bright due to the incidence of pests and diseases.
“The future of cocoa production is not bright because the production continues to diminish year in year out, what government can do i think is to help by subsidizing cocoa farm inputs so that youth can pick interest in it so that the future of cocoa production can be bright but as of now ,the future of cocoa production is not so bright” oyetayo concluded
With a steady growth of $80bn a year in the global cocoa industry over the last 100 years, which has transformed the chocolate confectionery market with a prediction of a rise in cocoa demand by 30 per cent by 2020, the industry will struggle to provide sufficient supply, if it does not empower and invest in small-scale farmers.
Bamise Dada is a journalist covering community development, with a focus on health, agriculture and climate change as it affect rural communities in the north central part of Nigeria. He can be contacted on @bamise951 or firstname.lastname@example.org