Cocoa is the plant from which chocolate and other consumables is made. Nigeria account for over 20% of global cocoa production, but farmers in this country earn less than 6.5% of the chocolate industry’s total revenue.
Well, as Cocoa with the biological name “Theobroma cacao” (food of the gods), prices are melting lower as the resurgence of COVID-19 around the world threatens global demand for chocolate, the questions begging for answers are, is there hope for Cocoa farmers in 2021? will Cocoa Farmers Smile this season? Has COVID-19 and low rainfall caused them detriment?
During a visit, with a machete in his hand, looking perplexed, dissatisfied and hopeless an Akwa-Ibom Man, Itoro Ubongabasi in Ayede Ogbese, in Akure South Local Government Area of Ondo State examines his farm, perhaps, wondering and pondering, thinking that year 2021 is a year of retrogression, stagnation or questioning Almighty Jah for his looses this season. Ultimately, he unconsciously dropped a mouthful spongy phlegm on the ground while an unseen tears rolled down his cheeks.
Niger Delta Connect Correspondent who went to villages In Idanre and Akure South Local Government Areas of the state to document farmers pains reported that, rain has not been enough in most parts of Ondo State, thus dejection, depression, dreariness and utter hopelessness, these are probably the right words to describe the mood of cocoa farmers in Ondo State presently as they have lamented the dry spell being experienced in the state, which has resulted in low tied of cocoa as many worry their livelihoods will disappear altogether.
Normally, cocoa farmers do start spraying chemicals by may/June but in 2021, some farmers started spraying chemicals towards July ending while some started August. Some of the farmers who spoke describe such experience as unusual.
In general, agricultural land is shrinking and Agriculture remains an important sector in the Nigerian economy contributing 24.4% of the GDP and provides employment for about 38% of the working population in Nigeria. The sector provides food for the rapidly growing population; and raw material for agro-allied industries.
Speaking, the Chairman of Daralode Camp, off Ajipowo, in Idanre LGA of the state, Jimoh Saka Adaralode said, “I was encouraged by a good harvest last year, so, I decided to boost my cocoa plantation this year but an unexpected low rainfall has cost me the whole huge loose as most seedlings planted this year have continued to die.”
Daralode noted that “agriculture is the highest employer of labour in Ondo State as it contributes over 70% of the state Gross Domestic Product while the state is the leading cocoa producing state with a production capacity of about 77,000 tons per annum, followed by Cross River, Kwara, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Abia, Rivers, and Adamawa.”
A modest farmer, Odobi Sunday who’s face was not just abashed but was also pale and full of gloomy quiescence said, “the rain stopped abruptly without crops maturing, making me to incur losses”.
He noted that government has given its farmers little incentive to conserve.
According to him, “Cocoa is a delicate, sensitive plant. It requires high rainfall and temperatures to grow, and produce more seeds as well as rainforest trees to offer shade and protection from too much light and damage caused by wind but most cocoa seeds looks yellowish, implying the effect of low rainfall, while cocoa planted this year have started dying, causing our lamentation because we spent huge resources on payment of labour, purchase of seedlings.”
Augustine Obije and other farmers who narrated the same experience said they had been having sleepless nights over the situation.
Meanwhile, it is difficult to give a single price estimate on how much cocoa sells for Nigeria today because the price varies largely per state. For instance, cocoa is cheaper in states like Ondo and Cross River owing to the fact that there is a large supply of the product in the areas.
As of August 15, 2021, a tone of Cocoa sells for N700,000-750,000 depending on the location of the purchase while a kilo at Idanre sells for N900,000/930,000 respectively.
In Idanre Local Government Area of Ondo State, 1 tone of cocoa sells between N680,000-750,000. At Ore, in Odigbo Local Government Area of the state, it sells between N700,000-750,000; but in Akure South, it sells for N680,000-705,000.
However, in Ife Central, in Osun State, 1 tone of cocoa sells between N680,000-700,000 while in Akoko Edo, Edo state, it sells at N670,000-690,000.
In the Nation’s paradise state (Cross River, Ikom precisely), 1 tone of Cocoa stands between N650,000-680,000
In addition, at the last trading session, September Cocoa futures closed at $2,164.50.
As a result of weakening demand globally for cocoa and its substrates coupled with the present cocoa glut, as supplies outweigh demand, the price of September cocoa futures dropped to $2,159 per 1000kg, nearing a one-year low, before stabilizing above its support levels.
Globally chocolate is often classified as a luxury item, meaning, in times of high economic uncertainty like this, the consumption of such products will falter, as consumers focus more on necessity goods. In order, words, ‘No be person way don see food chop go see money buy chocolate?’.
However, Nigeria’s leader remains optimistic recently that efforts made by fiscal stakeholders in that sector, seems to be bearing fruit, as Nigeria recorded a surge in revenue in Cocoa, year to year.
President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria’s revenue from cocoa and sesame seeds has increased by $79.4 million and $153 million respectively in the past year.
“Our efforts on growing non-oil exports have started to yield some results. For instance, in the past year, our revenue from cocoa and sesame seed increased by $79.4 million and $153 million”, he said.
Nigeria plays a leading role in the cocoa industry, covering a 6.5% share of the global production of cocoa.
Nigeria is also the fourth largest exporter of cocoa beans globally, behind Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, and Indonesia, according to the National Export Promotion Council. Cocoa exports in Nigeria are projected to grow annually by 4% in the coming years.
These export earnings from cocoa, if invested properly, could further help Nigeria reduce its reliance on crude oil, which makes up a large chunk of its export earnings (about 90% Est), and minimize the impact of oil price swings to its economy
Finally, there is still hope for cocoa farmers because we are still in the month of August, cocoa can still yield after moderate rainfall, so let farmers keep their fingers crossed and pin their hope in God, besides, you cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore, therefore, dwell in possibility!
Henry David Thoreau says, if we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment and for sure there is light for cocoa farmers in this 2021 season, despite all of the darkness.