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Affluent Cocoa Sector; Effluent Cocoa Farmers 

By Ernest Ndukong

Cameroon, with an estimated production of over 200 000 tons a year, is fifth largest producer of cocoa beans behind Ivory Coast, Indonesia, Ghana and Nigeria.

The National Cocoa and Coffee Board, NCCB, revealed that the bean hit a record production of 236,701 tons for the 2010-2011 seasons, attributing the success to favourable weather conditions which have also helped top growers like Ivory Coast and Ghana to break existing records even before the end of their seasons.  It is revealed that over 85 percent of the production capacity has been exported, 12 percent ground locally and the remaining 5 557 tons, representing about two percent, has been stockpiled.

This figure is expected to be higher and better with the eminent construction of 2 500 ovens to dry the beans in the Southwest Region. The President of the Cameroon National Association of Cocoa and Coffee Producers, James Mosima Lobe, observed that the project, to be funded by the country’s Cocoa and Coffee Development Fund, will serve about 600 000 cocoa farmers.

Like other products from the primary sector, Cocoa is under-utilised, thus very little, in terms of proceeds, is derived from the sector whose task is so thorny. Under-utilisation could be reflected in the portion that is exported, the non-use of its by-products like the tree, the leaves and the pods.

The nerve-breaking process starts with harvesting the ripe pods; considering the trees have taken about four years from planting to maturity and production level. To ensure good and desirable products, thorough follow-up, with respect to pruning, clearing and application of pesticides, are utmost necessities. Breaking the pods, fermentation, packaging and transportation demand huge financial, material and human resources.

The cocoa farmer or dealer would benefit only about FCFA 1,200 per kilo as the farm gate price or FCFA 1,400 per kilo for the export price, respectively, with much lost through disposal of the other potential income generating by-products. These rates sometimes deep to three digits when the markets are in their bad shape.

The per-kilo price of cocoa has been, to say the least, desirable for the just ending season, selling averagely around FCFA 1,200. The political turmoil in the world’s largest grower, Ivory Coast, also had a positive connotation on the exports and export prices of Cameroon’s cocoa.
It should be noted that the United States, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are the main consumers of cocoa. The cocoa seeds are processed into cocoa powder for use mainly to make chocolate and cocoa butter.

What is even more saddening is that the original owner of the material will now purchase the subsequent product at cut-throat prices. Cocoa pulp can be eaten fresh or made into cocoa juice. It may also be used in cakes, creams, drinks and toppings. Hotels equally use it in main dishes like crispy cocoa chicken, cocoa sotong roll, cocoa fish slice, cocoa fried noodle and cocoa beef, to name these few.

Besides being used as victuals, scientists have discovered that cocoa is valuable to health, claiming it has twice the anti-cancer antioxidants of red wine and about three times what green tea contains. The by-products of cocoa are used partially but not commercially. Some boil the leaves and drink as local tea which they claim keeps the body healthy.

The pod husks are disposed of on unproductive land for recycling, to enhance the compost nature and make it fruitful for other crops. Others dry the husks and feed their pullet and domestic animals, which is enriched with fat and Vitamin D. The unfermented cotyledon is ground locally to produce cocoa butter which could also be used by cosmetic manufacturers. The trees too provide oxygen and prevent the soil from being eroded.

On this strength, cocoa farmers in particular and Cameroon as a whole would reap much if more of the cocoa is transformed to secondary products in Cameroon and less is exported. The process will as well provide jobs to many more Cameroonians and improve upon the general livelihood of Cameroonians.

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