Nigerian cocoa growers’ shipments halt over levy dispute

NIGERIA – Cocoa shipments from Nigeria’s second-largest grower Cross River halted this week after merchants and the state government disagreed over the payment of an export levy, the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) said.

Godwin Ukwu, spokesman for the association, said on Wednesday about 600 tons of cocoa due for export had been delayed since Monday after the government refused to issue certificates to enable buyers ship the beans.

The state government last Friday directed merchants to pay N20 ($0.1235) per bag of cocoa (N320 per ton) in a levy to an account it listed in a letter seen by Reuters, before they can could get export documents.

“Cocoa has not moved since Monday because they (the government) have refused to give us excavation papers,” Ukwu, whose association represents farmers, exporters and buyers, told Reuters by telephone.

“If we don’t shut down tomorrow the warehouses will be filled … and it will be difficult for us to continue to buy because there would be no more storage space.”

Officials from the state government were not immediately available to comment.

Cross River is the second-largest grower in Nigeria with annual volumes of around 60,000 tons in the world’s fourth biggest cocoa producer. Cocoa exports from Cross River are usually destined for Europe.

Ukwu said the levy was normally paid to the trade body without government involvement, which was why merchants had refused to pay.

He added that merchants planned to shut their warehouses in Ikom, one of the biggest producing areas in Cross River, which had around 2,000 tons of cocoa beans, on Thursday due to the logjam, so as not to keep stockpiling products, until the impasse was resolved.

Last month, cocoa shipments from Cross River were also halted due to a disagreement over a levy imposed by the state government on exporters who did not use the state port to ship their beans.

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