NIGERIA – Nigeria’s cocoa midcrop output may decline by as much as 60 per cent as prolonged dry weather takes toll on the trees, the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) has predicted.

“The heatwave is so severe now that flowers and buds are falling off cocoa trees in the farms.

The 2016 midcrop may drop by about 60 per cent as a result of the ravaging effect of the long harsh harmattan weather,” President of CAN, Sayina Riman said from his Ikom, Cross River State base.

Farmers in the South Western cocoa belt that accounts for about 70 per cent of Nigeria’s production said the crop wasn’t faring well, with the last rains in the area falling in late October, except for a few hours rainfall experienced last month.

“We will be lucky if we get up to half of last year’s midcrop cocoa harvest,” Kola Adeboyejo, a farmer in the cocoa-growing town of Idanre, in Ondo State said by phone.

Nigeria’s two cocoa harvests include the smaller midcrop from April to June, and the main crop from October to December. The midcrop normally accounts for about 30 per cent of Nigeria’s cocoa output.

Nigeria is the world’s largest cocoa producer after Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia, with a government-estimated output of 350,000 tons in the 2013-14 season.

The International Cocoa Organization estimates Nigeria’s output at 240,000 tons for the same period.

Ghana’s cocoa growing region received less than five millimeters of rain since December 3, compared with the normal amount of 50 millimeters, according to Speedwell.

Global cocoa production totaled 4.2 million tons in 2014-15, about one per cent higher than previously estimated, according to a report published by the ICCO on November 27. Adverse weather conditions and an outbreak of black pod disease cut Nigeria’s output by about a fifth to 190,000 tons, according to the report.

Cocoa farmers in Nigeria reported a poor main-crop harvest with the start of the 2015-16 season in October after major growing areas were ravaged by floods and disease in the preceding months, according to the cocoa association.

The dry spell that ensued afterward wasn’t broken by intermittent rains that would’ve helped the development of buds for the midcrop, according to farmers.

“Even if the rains start today, it will require a period of regeneration for the dying cocoa trees to develop fruits again,” Riman said.

February 8, 2016;