by crossriverwatch admin
Farmers in Cross River State are fighting blackpod disease as rainfall increases in the South East of the country.
“The rain pattern is causing infection to crops,” Godwin Ukwu, a farmer and spokesman for the Cocoa Association of
Nigeria, said in a phone interview on Wednesday from Ikom, the largest cocoa-producing area of the state. “Fungicides are helping farmers control the spread.”
Farmers in Cross River, which produces about 30 percent of the nation’s cocoa output “are worried that more rains will make the disease spread faster and are being cautious,” Ukwu said. Blackpod fungus, which rots cocoa pods and thrives in wet, humid conditions, is the most destructive disease for the cocoa trees in the state, he said.
The harvest of mid-crop beans began in April, when bean weights were 270 grammes (0.6 pound). That declined to about 250 grammes due to the rains, Neji Abang, country coordinator for Socodevi, a Quebec City, Canada-based organisation helping farmers in the country raise output and bean quality, said in an interview on Wednesday.
“Farmgate prices for cocoa beans in Cross River fell to N445,000 ($2,720) a ton from 450,000 as crop quality dropped,” Abang said.
Nigeria’s cocoa production is estimated at 300,000 metric tons this year from 295,000 in 2013, Sayina Riman, president of the country’s cocoa association, said on Wednesday. Farmers in Cross River are pruning trees to increase access to sunlight and reduce the impact of the rains, Abang said.
Meanwhile, Nigeria is unlikely to introduce a fixed farmgate price for cocoa to mirror its West African neighbours’ approach to the sector as its farmers receive a higher price and lack trust in the public sector, the president of its cocoa association told Reuters.
“I don’t think Nigeria would contemplate introducing a fixed price. Why? Because there’s still a low synergy between the public and private sectors and a low level of trust of the public sector,” Sayina Riman said.
Ivory Coast and Ghana, the world’s top two growers, both have fixed cocoa prices which are currently below world prices.
Speaking on the sidelines of the World Cocoa Conference in Amsterdam, Riman said: “Most often the Nigerian price at the farmgate is higher than the international market price because of competition within the market.”
The International Cocoa Organisation estimates Nigeria’s 2013/14 crop at 250,000 tonnes, making it the world’s fourth largest producer behind Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia.
Nigeria’s cocoa production peaked at around 400,000 tons a year in the 1970s, but the government began to neglect the sector with the discovery of oil. The industry’s decline accelerated after it was deregulated in 1986, with the abolition of the cocoa board.
“One of the major factors (for the board being dissolved) was its inability to pay farmers who had supplied to the board, and two, farmers were already cutting down their trees for lack of being paid and for lack of this synergy and support that is critical for the industry from government,” Riman said.
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