The new cocoa year started on October 1st and its time to review some of the production data from the last cocoa year. Let’s start with the largest producer, the Côte d’Ivoire. According to an item in Africa Report, the West African country had its worst production in five years. Total cocoa exports amounted to 1,178,526 tonnes, 14 percent down from last years 1,367,877 tonnes. Exporters expect the current season to be just as bad, predicting exports in the range of 1 million to 1.15 million tons.
The causes cited for this decline are bad weather, increases in black pod disease and a generally crumbling infrastructure. In addition, the free pesticides promised by the government have not made their way to the farmers who need them. One farmer’s complaint: “We were supposed to receive the pesticides by August free from the government, but it’s being sold on the open market. People are making a fast buck from selling it.” Since the 2002/03 civil war, the country has basically been at a standstill. The elections planned for this Fall hopefully will constitute a first step towards improved services.
The Cocoa Management Committee has also proposed paying farmers 35 percent more than in the previous year to halt the decline in production. But the aging and sick trees need replanting, a process that will take several years to yield higher production. More than 78 percent of the trees are 15 years old while 19 percent have reached the end of their life cycle of 30 years. The Cocoa Management Committee has decided to distribute enough seedlings to plant 15,000 hectares. The new varieties are supposed to produce pods in only two years. I can only wonder about the quality of those cocoa beans. Faster is not always better.