Nigeria’s mid-crop cocoa output is expected to rise following higher than expected rainfall which has helped boost output for the 2020/21 season to an estimated 320,000 tonnes, the president of the Cocoa Association said.
Nigeria is the world’s fifth biggest cocoa grower, and its mid-crop – harvested between May and September – comes in at between 50,000 and 60,000 tonnes when weather conditions are good and chemicals readily available to spray any diseased trees.
“The production is promising due to the consistent rainfall,” Cocoa Association President Mufutau Abolarinwa said, referring to the mid-crop. “Production is likely to increase from what we used to have.”
Abolarinwa told Reuters average rainfall between July and August reduced the need for frequent spraying of trees.
Output for the 2020/21 season had been projected to drop by at least 20 per cent due to the expectation that measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic would hamper farming services.
The 2019/20 season reached an estimated output of 250,000 tonnes. The International Cocoa Organization had forecast 260,000 tonnes.
Cocoa trees need a delicate balance of rain and dry weather. Too little rain and they wither; too much and they become susceptible to insects or fungal black pod disease. Beans can also go mouldy if farmers are unable to dry them outside.
Cocoa analyst Robo Adhuse said the rains relieved stress on the trees but added that more rainfall could increase the incidence of disease and insects.
Abolarinwa said demand for beans has been sluggish with contracts coming mostly from Asia, which priced Nigerian cocoa at differentials of between £160 to £200 ($279.56) less the market price due to weak international demand.
The low demand for beans has spilled over to processed cocoa, he said. Nigeria processes some cocoa, but mostly it exports beans.
“There is virtually no demand for butter and cake,” said Felix Oladunjoye, secretary to Nigerian cocoa processors. “A lot of factories are carrying cocoa butter from 2019.”