Cocoa: Low harvest looms amid Coronavirus pandemic
• Losses Are Not Issue, But Cost Of Inputs — Adhuze
• Exporters Are The Real Victims — Iyama
• Unavailability Of Pesticides, Inputs Already Taking Its Toll — Elujobi
Just like the case of other agro commodities farmers, Cocoa farmers and exporters are currently in a serious economic crisis over the impact of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown, which has debarred them from selling their produce.
As the price of the produce nosedives due to lack of demands, huge losses are recorded on a daily basis. Aside the falling price, there is a challenge of weight loss because the longer cocoa stays, the more it loses weight.
To make the matter worse, the majority of the exporters and middlemen had stocked the produce to sell at an appropriate time, at higher rates, but now they are gnashing their teeth in regret.
According to the Consultant to Ondo State Cocoa Revolution Project, Robo Adhuze, a former spokesman of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), Nigeria’s cocoa farmers are not alone in their experience, as the development is having a far-reaching impact on the global cocoa market.
“Since this is a global problem, Nigeria’s cocoa farmers are not alone in their experience. However, the ‘luck’ is that (most) farmers had sold off their beans prior to the outbreak of the pandemic became a major challenge. And they sold at competitive prices. Farmers don’t traditionally hold beans since what they harvests are small. More than 90 per cent of our farmers harvest less than one metric tonne at a go and their needs are usually more than their incomes.
“Losses are not an issue for cocoa farmers because the main harvest season was already winding down when the pandemic took root in Nigeria. The main impact is in the cost of farm inputs and cost of living, which have gone up by several percentages,” he said. Adhuze said the high cost of inputs is a function of lack of imports of pesticides and other inputs, adding that in weeks to come, many farmers might do without pesticides and “this could lead to low harvest.
“It’s hard to imagine the Federal Government being able to do anything, given the aloofness of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (FMARD) in the last four to five years. However, farmers’ cooperatives can be supported with loans like the Anchor Borrowers Programme.” He suggested that other support windows should be open to cocoa farmers like other crops, but with special proviso due to the gestation period.
The National President, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association (FACAN), Dr. Victor Iyama, who rued the impact of the pandemic, said cocoa exporters are the real victims, as the goods have been taken off the farmers. “The truth is that it is going to affect so many of us because the buyers are not even buying because there’s lockdown all over the country and all over the world.
“And there are no demands and even where the terminal markets are open you can see that the price has really nosedived- say the cocoa that most of us have bought for N960, 000 plus FOB (Free on Board) charges that is going for over N1m, if you sell today, you will lose nothing less than between N350, 000 and N400, 000 per tonne, how do you do that?
“Apart from the price nose-diving, there’s going to be a serious shortage of weight because the longer it stays, the longer it loses weight. Of course, you can still try to keep it in such a way that the quality will not deteriorate, but definitely it will lose weight.
“Many of us in the sector have people who have stocked ginger, cocoa and other crops because the thing happened suddenly. We are still in the midst of the season, and so only a few farmers will be affected as most of us had already taken the goods off the farmers.”
A cocoa farmer based in Osogbo, Osun State, Mr. Matthew Elusoji, confirmed that shortage of the pesticides and other inputs have begun to take its toll on the farmers. “Now, a kilo of cocoa has increased to N850.00, against the initial price of N700.00 per kilo. This is because of the cost of pesticides and other inputs we are using.
“These pesticides are very important to the cocoa seed because they help the product and also help the crop during the rainy season. Without the pesticides, the cocoa will not develop well and it will get spoiled during rainy season. When it gets spoiled, it will completely lose weight. So, there is no how any farmer will make money without using pesticides for the cocoa,” he said.