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Excessive rainfall threatens Nigeria’s largest agric export commodity

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NIGERIAN cocoa farmers have expressed fear that their 2020-21 harvest season could witness a lower output as a result of the excessive rainfall that has stalled the crop’s harvest.

The excessive rainfall in the South Western states, especially in Ondo and Ogun states has forced farmers to halt the early harvest of the main crop which typically commences in September-October.

As a result, cocoa farmers, who are well aware of the end result, have expressed grief over the lack of sunshine to dry cocoa pods after being harvested.

In addition, a possible outbreak of the black pod disease, which thrives during the wet season, is also a major threat to output.

The disease, if left unchecked could damage up to 40 per cent of Nigeria’s annual cocoa output.

Cocoa, which is Nigeria’s largest agric export commodity, accounted for 1.46 per cent of the total exports, and 41.38 per cent of total agric exports in the second quarter of 2020, Q2’20.

Approximately, 70 per cent of the country’s annual production (330,000 tons in 2018) of the commodity is grown in the South West.

The major producing states are: Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti and Oyo.

The implication is that the anticipated fall in cocoa production at a time of dwindling oil prices would further put a strain on government revenue.

It could also undermine the government’s effort at achieving food security in Nigeria.

In a bid to achieve food security and sufficiency, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, has directed banks to increase their exposure to the agric sector from 4 per cent currently to 10 per cent.

President Muhammadu Buhari has also directed the CBN to suspend forex for food and fertilizer imports.

Increased credit allocation to the agric sector is expected to provide huge support to the sector, improve productivity and boost domestic output.

The expected boost in food production will reduce food imports and lower food prices.

Nigeria’s food import bill currently stands at $20 billion annually.

Specifically, increased access to funds could avail cocoa farmers the opportunity to put in place the necessary storage and drying facilities, which will help to guard against subsequent shortfalls in output.

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