Nigeria’s Cocoa Prices Fall as Mold Reduces Bean Quality

Cocoa prices received by farmers in Africa’s largest economy declined as mold induced by heavy rains reduced the quality of the chocolate ingredient, said Socodevi, an organization working on improving crops in Nigeria.

Farmgate prices in the Cross River belt dropped 8 percent to 440,000 naira ($2,714) a metric ton, compared with 480,000 naira at the end of July, Neji Abang, country coordinator for Socodevi, a Quebec City, Canada-based organization, said in a telephone interview today from Ikom in Cross River state.

“High mold caused by heavy rains affected crop quality, leading to lower pricing of beans by exporters,” said Neji, who is training farmers in the country how to raise output and bean quality. “The mold level is as high as 21 percent compared with 3 percent that is internationally acceptable.”

The Cross River region produces about 75,000 tons of cocoa annually, out of a national output of 300,000 tons. Cocoa exports from Nigeria rose 41 percent to 8,990 tons in July compared with a month earlier, the nation’s Federal Produce Inspection Service, which certifies exports, said yesterday.

Socodevi is training farmers “on best pruning practices,” to reduce the effect of mold, Neji said. “We are asking farmers to reduce unwanted branches to enable sunlight to penetrate their farms for the main crop harvest.”

The main crop harvest in the southern Edo state, accounting for 15 percent of the nation’s output, has been slowed by mold of up to 30 percent owing to the rains, Aminu Yakubu, spokesman for the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, said in a separate interview in Benin. The rainy season, which runs from May to October in the area, has brought heavy precipitation this month, he said.

In the southwest Ondo state, the highest producing state which is responsible for as much as 40 percent of the nation’s output, mold levels are up to 20 percent, making it difficult for farmers to dry beans, Adeola Adegoke, chairman for the farmers’ association, said in a separate interview from Akure.

Farmgate prices in the area are between 450,000 naira and 500,000 naira, he said.

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