Nigeria’s Cocoa Farms Turn to New Beans to Help Double Output

Nigeria, the fourth-largest cocoa grower in the world, is counting on early-maturing, high-yielding, disease-resistant beans to help double the country’s production in two years.

“We’re distributing eight varieties of the plant that mature in about 18 months to farmers in the 14 cocoa producing states to replace the traditional crop with four to five years maturity,” Malachy Akoroda, chief executive of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, said yesterday in an interview in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun state, in the southwestern part of the country.

Africa’s second-largest economy plans to double cocoa production to 500,000 metric tons in two years, Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina, minister of agriculture and natural resources, said June 6.

The new varieties produce 1 1/2 metric tons of cocoa per hectare (2.47 acres) each season compared with the older types which yield 1/2 ton, Akoroda said.

The institute is training farmers on weeding and pest control, crop spacing, fertilizer application and harvest techniques, Akoroda said.

The main crop season, which usually starts around the end of August, could see output reaching 300,000 tons to 320,000 tons, up from 250,000 tons last year, Robo Adhuze, spokesman for the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said June 21. The group’s next forecast is expected at the end of the month.

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 April and ends in June. The dates may vary each year depending on the weather.

The West African nation ranks behind the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia as the world’s largest cocoa producer, according to the London-based International Cocoa Organization.

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