Cameroon Seeks to Boost Cocoa Quality to Sustain European Sales

Cameroon, West Africa’s fourth-biggest cocoa grower, wants to boost the quality of its crop to sustain exports to Europe, the largest processing region.

The government started a campaign to stop farmers from drying beans on tarmacked roads, according to Jean Assogo Angoula, an official at the Trade Ministry. The practice contaminates beans with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which is banned in the 27-nation European Union, Lome, Togo-based Ecobank Transnational Inc. said in a report Jan. 18.

“The European Union will no longer tolerate the importation of low-quality beans,” Angoula said by phone from Yaounde on Jan. 11.

About 20 percent of Cameroon’s crop is dried on tarmac, according to Edward George, head of soft commodities research at Ecobank. Production was 210,000 metric tons in 2011-12, the International Cocoa Organization in London estimates.

Europe processes some 40 percent of the world’s cocoa production, according to the ICCO. Farmers use paved roads to speed up the drying process, helping them to sell beans quicker, Jean Marie Belibi, a cocoa farmer in Awae, near Yaounde, said by phone Jan. 11.

About one ton of cocoa dried on a road along the Yaounde-Bafoussam highway was seized from farmers and destroyed on Jan. 9, Angoula said. The quality “is putting off the major trading houses from purchasing Cameroonian beans as they are typically mixed with beans from other origins to make cocoa products, potentially making these products unsuitable for sale,” Ecobank, which finances cocoa trade, said in the report.

Oven Drying

The government also wants to stop farmers in the southwest from drying beans in ovens, which can contaminate them with smoke, said Forwang Laurence, an official of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Some farmers use ovens because it often rains after the harvest, Laurence said. More than 50 percent of the crop is dried that way, Ecobank’s George said.

About 60 percent of Cameroon’s population depends on cocoa, which accounts for 42 percent of the country’s gross domestic product, according to the Alliance of Cocoa Producing Countries, a Lagos, Nigeria-based intergovernmental group of 10 cocoa producing countries.

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