Nigeria cocoa group cuts production to 10%

cocoa-treeNigeria’s cocoa association cut its production target for the 2009-10 harvest by as much as 10 percent because farmers are using illegal, poor-quality pesticides to spray their crops.

Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest cocoa exporter, may produce about 360,000 metric tons this season, compared with an earlier forecast of 400,000 tons, said Neji Abang Neji, secretary-general of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, which represents farmers, traders and processors.

Unsuitable pesticides, which are not being used in the prescribed quantities, are likely to negatively affect the size and quality of the harvest, he said by phone yesterday from Ikom, in the southern Cross River state. The West African nation produced about 340,000 tons of the cocoa last season, Neji said.

The rising cost of pesticides and other chemicals used to protect their crops against fungus and pests has led farmers to use poorer-quality versions that are smuggled into Nigeria, Neji said. “We try to stop them, but it is difficult because of the difference in price.”

A 50-gram sachet of Ridomil, a fungicide used to protect cocoa against black-pod disease, costs 280 naira ($1.89) in Nigeria, while the illegal version costs 120 naira, he said.

“We should not expect a bumper harvest because chemicals are very expensive,” farmer Tangban Mbek said by phone today from Etung, also in Cross River. “If you are not using the right chemical, it will have a harmful effect on the crop.”

Incorrect Application

Emma Ajayi, chief executive officer of Syngenta AG’s Nigerian unit, which makes Ridomil and other crop protection chemicals, said many Nigerian farmers do not apply the substance properly. “The 50-gram sachet of Ridomil should treat 50 trees, and the farmers should target the pods only, but they spread the whole tree, and end up treating only 20 trees,” he said by phone from Abuja late Tuesday.

Nigeria ranks behind the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia as the world’s largest cocoa producer, according to the Web site of the International Cocoa Organization. The Nigerian government has boosted output by providing farmers with quick-maturing seedlings and fertilizers at subsidized prices since 2005, while improved farming methods have also helped.

Nigeria has two harvests, the first of which typically runs from April to early September, and a main season, which runs from October to April, said Robo Adhuze, a consultant at the Cocoa Association, by phone today from Akure, in southwestern Nigeria.

Source: Bloomberg

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