As heavy rains continue to fall across much of Nigeria, experts are worried that cocoa production in the country may suffer. This growing concern is being heightened by a new outbreak of a cocoa disease which now threatens to exacerbate the problem.
Bloomberg reports that the President of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Seyina Riman, confirmed that the incessant rainfall is helping to spread the fungal disease, just as flood waters continue to rise. Mr Riman runs a 112-hectare cocoa farm in Ikom, Akwa Ibom State which has also been threatened.
“It has been raining heavily and nonstop, almost daily since late July. Just as flooding is threatening the survival of the cocoa trees, excessive rain is boosting the spread of black pod disease.” – Riman
According to Riman, the fungal disease attacks the cocoa trees and pods. The symptoms range from shriveling pods, changing colours (pods turn black) and the withering of cocoa trees. Unfortunately, the disease thrives in damp weather.
At the moment, the South Eastern cocoa-producing region of the country is affected. The implication of this is that Nigeria could lose nearly 40% of its estimated output from the region which is estimated at 72,000 metric tons.
This could have several negative implications for the Nigerian economy
In view of this development, Nigeria’s cocoa export could suffer due to a reduction in output. This will portend that the country will lose millions of dollars in foreign exchange; an unfortunate thing at a point when the country is trying to diversify its economy and shift focus from oil exports.
Note that cocoa has for long remained one of Nigeria’s biggest non-oil export commodity. The country ranks as the fifth biggest cocoa producers in the world. This may soon change for the worse considering the circumstances.
More so, a decrease in cocoa output will not augur well for the local companies (such as Nestle Nigeria Plc and Cadbury Nigeria Plc) which require it as basic raw material for the production of their Milo and Bournvita chocolatey beverage brands. These companies may end up needing to import this essential raw material, which will, in turn, cause a spike in the prices of the product.