Nigeria Farmers Slow Cocoa Harvest to Let Beans Dry More

Cocoa farmers in parts of Nigeria are slowing the last of the mid crop from 2013-14 and the new 2014-15 main harvest to allow beans more time to dry after recent excessive rain.

Wet weather in the Cross River belt, which accounts for about 25 percent of Nigeria’s cocoa output, may mean more mold to beans, Godwin Ukwu, a spokesman for the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said by phone yesterday. Cocoa prices climbed 15 percent this year in London because of shortages worldwide.

“Farmers need to dry their beans before the market,” Ukwu said. “It’s reducing what should be out there for sale.”

The rainy season runs from May to October. Farmers are worried about losses because keeping beans on trees may make them too ripe and cut their weight, according to Eyo Offong, a farmer in Calabar, the Cross River state capital.

The Cross River region produces about 75,000 metric tons of cocoa annually, out of national output of 300,000 tons.

Harvesting of the main crop, the larger of two annual harvests, will pick up in September when the rain usually starts to recede, Ukwu said. Farmers are still collecting the last beans of the 2013-14 harvest as well.

Nigeria is working with the World Bank to provide equipment to dry beans, Ukwu said. “If cocoa is not dry, certainly mold will affect it.”

The government plans to meet farmers Aug. 7 to resolve a tax dispute that halted exports in July, he said. Cocoa exporters in the southeast region resumed trading July 18 after the government suspended a levy of 5,000 naira ($31) a ton.

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