Nigerian Cocoa Harvest Starts as Rains, Disease Threaten Yield
Cocoa farmers in Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest producer of the chocolate ingredient, have started the harvest for the 2012-2013 season with yields threatened by flooding.
Many cocoa farms are submerged in water, leading to high humidity and destruction of crops, Sayina Riman, president of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, which groups farmers, traders and processors, said by phone yesterday from the city of Calabar in southeastern Nigeria. “Even the cherrelles that have formed are under the flood, so they are destroyed.”
There are a growing number of cases of black pod, a fungal disease that thrives in wet conditions, said Isaiah Ndiyo, a farmer in Itumbuzor, in southeastern Abia state. Farmers are now lowering initial expectations of a good harvest, he said.
Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country of more than 160 million, is facing its worst flooding in decades after its two biggest rivers, the Niger and the Benue, overflowed their banks as dams let out water following a year of heavy rains. Farms, homes and roads have been washed away and more than 148 people killed by floods in the past two months, according to the country’s emergency agency.
The cocoa association projected in September that Nigeria’s cocoa output would rise by 20 percent to 300,000 metric tons from 250,000 metric tons as new farms started producing.
“We now have a threat of lower production because of incessant rainfall and flooding of our cocoa farms,” Riman said.
Nigeria’s cocoa year is divided into two harvests, with the main one beginning in October and ending in January, while the smaller crop usually begins in March and ends in June.
Cocoa for December delivery fell 1.4 percent, to $2,385 a ton in New York yesterday.
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