The Cocoa Association of Nigeria has said that between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes of cocoa beans are stuck at the Lagos port and warehouses across the country, as the lockdown has disrupted transport and port activities.
President of the group, Mufutau Abolarinwa, told Reuters that some of April’s orders were still being exported after the lockdowns disrupted transport and port activities.
“Around 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of beans were stuck at Lagos port and warehouses in the country. The cocoa mid-crop output is expected to be weak as measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus hindered farmers and exporters, creating a backlog of unshipped beans,” he said.
This confirmed a Nairametrics’ report published last month, which stated that Nigeria would lose over $100 million from Cocoa exports due to falling demand in Europe, the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the report, the demand for Nigerian cocoa is at risk of recording a further decline. Europe is the largest market for the country’s cocoa exports. For instance, over 81% of Nigerian cocoa was exported to Europe in 2018, with 65% going to the Netherlands and Germany alone.
This was disclosed by the Nigerian Export Promotion Council in its annual report titled, “Impact assessment of and Policy Responses to the Coronavirus Pandemic on Agricultural Exports: Early evidence from Nigeria.”
It stated, “Over the last decade, cocoa has been the top-performing non-oil export product in Nigeria. Commodity markets have taken a major hit, and this does not apply solely to crude oil.
“The price of Nigerian cocoa beans stood at $2880.63/tonne on 03 February 2020 (source: ITC market price information). It has now fallen to $2440.94/tonne as of 30 March 2020 (source: ITC market price information). This is a fall of $439.69 per tonne.”
According to Abolarinwa, though the government has eased month-long lockdowns in commercial hub Lagos state, neighbouring cocoa producing state Ogun, and the capital Abuja, interstate movement has been banned, creating a headache for cocoa delivery.
“Ships are being quarantined at the port, creating extra storage costs. Trading houses are anxious to receive their shipments and delays could affect demand for further beans from farmers, especially as the mid-crop harvest is about to start. We are hoping for an improvement,” Abolarinwa told Reuters.
Also, he explained that the nation’s mid-crop – harvested between May and September – comes in at between 50,000 and 60,000 tonnes when weather conditions are good and chemicals readily available to spray diseased trees.
Farmers expect the late rains to affect bean weight for the mid-crop, which could be around 270-280 grammes, compared with an average weight of around 300 grammes.
“We are supposed to be spraying now to avoid black pod disease once the rains start. But because of coronavirus, labour is scarce, and we don’t know whether we would get chemicals or not,” a cocoa farmer, Oko Aja, who owns a 42-hectare cocoa farm in Nigeria’s second-biggest producing region of Cross Rivers state said.