Steady rainfall in Nigeria’s main cocoa-growing regions is raising the risk of disease and threatening bean quality as the new harvest season begins today, industry officials said.
“Farmers are concerned that there was heavy rainfall in the last few days and the incidence of black pod was high,” Akinwale Ojo, a farmer and former secretary-general of Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said by phone yesterday from the southwest cocoa-trading town of Akure.
Black pod, a fungus that spreads in times of wet weather and insufficient sunshine, causes cocoa pods to rot and hinders output across West and Central Africa, which accounts for 64 percent of global production of the chocolate ingredient, according to the International Cocoa Organization.
Nigeria ranks behind Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia in global production. Exports of the chocolate ingredient are the country’s second-biggest foreign exchange earner after crude oil, according to figures published by the government.
Heavy rain in southern Nigeria’s Cross River state, where cocoa is also grown, flooded some farms and forced farmers to re-spray their trees with chemicals that prevent the spread of black pod rot, said Neji Abang Neji, head of the cocoa association, which group farmers, traders, processors and regulators.
The peak of the main crop season could be delayed until February and March, Neji said in a phone interview today.
“We expected output to be high, but that may not be the way we expect it” now, he said. On Sept. 1, Neji said production may increase by 10 percent this season. He declined to revise the outlook today.