According to Mufutau Abolarinwa, President of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, Nigerian cocoa output is likely to drop by at least 20 % this season as measures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus and drier weather increase the chances of a poor harvest. Output for the last 2019/20 season declined to an estimate of 250,000 t – lower than the International Cocoa Organization’s forecast of 260,000 t. The association previously estimated last season’s output at 305,000 t.
Nigeria, the world’s fifth biggest cocoa grower, has been hurt by lockdown measures initiated to slow the spread of the outbreak as farmers have been unable to import inputs, while drier weather has hindered pod formation. The statistics office said in a report that the pandemic could cause agricultural yields to fall due to the limited access to inputs for crop production.
“We are expecting a poor harvest by November, and Export volumes have also fallen,” Mufutau Abolarinwa said. “For the past seven weeks there has been no substantial rain in the cocoa regions”. Cocoa trees need a delicate balance of rain and dry weather. Too little rain, and they wither; too much, and they become susceptible to insects or fungal black pod disease. Beans can also go mouldy if small farmers are unable to dry them outside.
Scant rainfall between April and June helped the bean count to rise from 230 g to 270 g, but was not sufficient to boost new pod formation. Farmers have started an early harvest for the main crop in anticipation that rainfall might improve before November, the peak of the harvest.