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Nigeria cocoa main crop harvest threatened by flood, disease

By Bloomberg News |   12 September 2018   |   10:22 am  

Workers harvest cocoa fruit from trees on a cocoa plantation in Agboville, Ivory Coast. Photographer: Jose Cendon/Bloomberg

Nigeria’s cocoa harvest is threatened by floods and an outbreak of fungal disease as heavy rains fall in the West African country’s main growing regions, the cocoa association said.

“It has been raining heavily and nonstop, almost daily since late July,” Sayina Riman, president of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said by phone from the southeastern cocoa-trading hub of Ikom, where he runs a 112-hectare (276-acre) farm. “Just as flooding is threatening the survival of the cocoa trees, excessive rain is boosting the spread of black pod disease.”

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A fungus that attacks both pods and trees, black pod spreads fast in damp weather, causing pods to shrivel and turn black while trees whither. The worst-affected southeastern cocoa belt could lose as much as 40 percent of its estimated output of 72,000 metric tons of cocoa beans, according to Riman.

Nigeria currently ranks joint fifth with neighboring Cameroon among the world’s biggest cocoa producers, with the International Cocoa Organization estimating its 2017-18 output at 240,000 tons. The local cocoa association estimates that production will be little changed in the 2018-19 season due to start in October.

Nigeria has two cocoa seasons comprising the smaller mid-crop running from April to June, and the main crop from October to December. More than 60 percent of Nigeria’s cocoa is produced in the southwestern region, with the city of Akure as the main trading center.

Cocoa closed at $2,284 per ton in Tuesday’s trading, down 0.7 percent from the previous day. The chocolate ingredient has gained 21 percent this year.

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