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EU Threatening To Ditch Cameroonian Cocoa, Coffee 

By Divine Ntaryike Jr — European importers of Cameroon’s cocoa and coffee are gradually directing their eyes elsewhere for products complying with fresh standards obliging certification, traceability and respect for the environment, among others.

According to Trade Minister, Luc Maglore Atangana Mbarga, the slow but sure drift represents palpable threats for Cameroonian growers of the cash crops who export 80 percent of their yields to the European market.  He says there is an imperative need to boost not only quantity, but also the quality of Europe-bound cocoa and coffee.

“For reasons hinged on respect for the environment and the evolution of mentalities, the European Union market is turning towards the consumption of ecologically compatible products and those whose cultivation respect the environment and certain social ethics,” Mbarga explained Wednesday in the Douala.

The trade boss was in the country’s economic nub to install newly designated officials of the Inter-professional Cocoa and Coffee Council.  He instructed the organization, as well as others regrouping farmers and stakeholders to quickly brainstorm on strategies to avert the looming ditching of Cameroonian cocoa and coffee by EU buyers.

“This situation imposes the need for introspection and that must be done as soon as possible, else we will be relegated behind as producers seize our place.  We must act fast to conserve our place and protect the numerous jobs in these two sectors,” he advised.

An estimated 600,000 families and other smallholders are directly involved in cocoa and coffee growing across seven of the country’s ten administrative regions.  Add-on figures from the National Cocoa and Coffee Board indicate that about 6 million people indirectly live off some 100 billion FCFA in revenue generated by the sectors. 

Elsewhere cocoa, robusta and arabica coffee globally represent 28 percent of non-petroleum exports and also account for about 40 percent of Cameroon’s agro-exports.  Recently cocoa production has been witnessing production upsurges with current output dangling around 200,000 tons yearly, though still far behind Africa’s leading producer, the Ivory Coast with a one-million-ton annual production.

And there are looming fears the country’s yields this year will slump as a result of a caterpillar plague currently devastating plantations in the South Region since February.  Reports indicate high risks of the unfurling pestilence spreading to the neighboring East and Center regions.

Months after the caterpillars were first spotted, the government only reacted in early April when Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Essimi Menye visited two of the affected plantations in bids to calm the agitating growers.

“We have many cocoa farms already under the attack of the caterpillars and the government has already taken action to combat them.  We have purchased chemicals and we have well-trained people to do the exercise [of spraying the affected farms],” Menya told reporters.

In January, cocoa growers in the Center region reported flaring invasions of their plantations by capsids.  Otherwise called mirids, the terrestrial insects preyed on emerging cocoa plant shoots and leaves; draining them of their fluids.  Experts warned the assault was causing defoliation that will eventually beget dwindled harvests.

Elsewhere last year, cocoa farmers in the leading production hub in the country’s southwest used fungicides to successfully battle another menace; the black pod fungal disease which provokes rotting of cocoa cods and trees.  And despite dreaded slumps in harvests, experts explained the recurrence of the pest and fungal attacks were encouraging increasing numbers of growers to go for improved varieties that should boost output in the long run.

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