For most cocoa farmers within the major cocoa belt across the country, there is little or no motivation to grow cocoa pods as the expected socio-economic gains are not at all commensurate with the timeless efforts and labour involved. 

In this report (by The Nation), Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf (Lagos) Damisi Ojo (Akure) Ernest Nwokolo (Abeokuta) Adesoji Adeniyi (Osogbo) examine the issues

 AT the best of times in this
country, cocoa, otherwise known
as theobroma cacao, which
translated in Greek means “food
of the gods,” was one of the
major cash-crops relied upon as a
foreign exchange earner ever
before crude oil was discovered
in commercial quantity in Oloibiri,
Port Harcourt, Rivers State.
But the criminal neglect of the
agricultural sub-sector with its
immense potential exemplified by
the groundnut pyramids in the
north, oil palm trees, rubber
plantations in the Midwest, to
mention just a few, whether as a
result of policy ineffectiveness,
errors of commission and
commission, analysts have argued,
is responsible in part for the
parlous state of the once booming
cocoa industry.

Good old days

While the boom lasted, the people
of the Southwest Nigeria,
reputed for cocoa farming,
enjoyed all the benefits that
came with it from the 50’s and
perhaps up to the late 90’s.
Interestingly, cocoa came to be
one of the symbols of commerce
and industry and a stamp of
legacy and honour bequeathed to
the Southwest Nigeria by the
pantheon of Yoruba politics, late
Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
As the Premier of the Old
Western Region, revenues from
cocoa formed parts of the funds
deployed for the many landmark
projects – infrastructural
developments and funding of free
education, among other many
regional investments executed in
the region by Awo.

One of the famous relics is the
Cocoa House in Ibadan, the Oyo
State capital. The edifice,
attests not only to the region’s
strong ties with cocoa farming
but also represents one of the
efficient avenues proceeds from
the produce was well utilised and

And Ogun State due to its
strategic location, vast arable
land and the salubrious weather
condition it enjoys annually,
played a pivotal role by
contributing significantly to the
cocoa beans production pool of
the region during the Awolowo’s

The Nigerian cocoa story is a very
riveting story indeed.
Regrettably, the overreliance on
oil has inadvertently led to the
dwindling fortunes of most
Nigerian cocoa farmers, who have
had to relinquish their position as
Africa’s leaders in the production
of the cash-crop to Côte d’Ivoire

Profile of cocoa-producing
In order of annual production
size, the eight largest cocoa-
producing countries at present
are Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana,
Indonesia, Nigeria, Cameroon,
Brazil, Ecuador and Malaysia.
These countries represent 90%
of world production.
Cote D’Ivoire is the leading cocoa
producing nation with 1.3 million
tonnes annually, while Ghana is
rated second with about 900,000
tonnes. Nigeria produces only
about 250,000 tonnes annually.
While the number of people who
depend on cocoa worldwide for
livelihood is estimated at 40-50
million, annual cocoa production is
put at 3 million tonnes.

The total number of cocoa
farmers worldwide is calculated
at over 6 million, comprising
mostly Africans, Asians, Central
Americans and South Americans.
Africa is believed to have the
greatest number of cocoa
farmers but despite this plus,
majority of its regular cocoa
farmers still wallow in poverty
due to poor standard of living,
and various economic and
environmental problems.
Tales of woes
In the view of many stakeholders,
cocoa farmers, especially the
ones in the rural areas have been
seriously marginalised and
neglected. While the production
can be said to be witnessing
relative increase over the years,
that cannot apply to the quality
of cocoa beans from the farmers’
harvest annually as was the case
in the past when all cocoa
produce passed through the
Commodity Board for testing,
grading and standardisation.
With the abolition of Commodity
Board decades back, a regime of
free trade in the produce crept in
and almost anybody could take
the commodity outside the state
for sale without certification and
grading. The implication is the
quality of the produce began to
take a downward trend and so is
the farmers’ income.
Besides, cocoa farmers are crying
over fluctuation in the prices of

They are calling on the
government at all levels to
intervene and save them from
avoidable losses. Some of the
cocoa farmers, who bore their
minds on the challenges they
face, are clamouring for return
of price control board to regulate
the buying and selling mechanism
of the products.

One of such is the fluctuating
price of cocoa locally which is
forcing many cocoa merchants to
quit the business due to what
they described as government
insensitivity to their plights.
John Ajeromi, a cocoa merchant
in Idanre Local Government Area,
which is the largest cocoa
producing area in the country,
said government needs to provide
soft loans for both cocoa
farmers and traders.

Ajeromi said most of the cocoa
traders who are still in the
business are compelled by
circumstances beyond their
control to borrow money from the
bank at outrageously high
interest rate, thus making the
venture unattractive to
prospective borrowers.

His words, “As a cocoa trader,
government is not helping us at
all, most especially in the area of
finance. We have no option than
to source for loan from banks.
“Government is not equally helping
cocoa farmers; most of them do
not have money to expand their
farms. Most of these farmers
spend the money they have after
harvesting; they are left with
nothing to continue with the

‘’In the past, there used to be
Cocoa Development Unit[CDU] in
the state department of the
Ministry of Agriculture to raise
young cocoa seedlings that would
replace old cocoa trees on regular
basis, but the department is now
in extinction.

“So, the burden is always on
cocoa merchants to finance these
farmers to ensure that they
remain in the business which is
highly discouraging.

“We have been appealing to
government but they have
refused to come to our aid
because we need government to
assist the farmers and the
merchants through soft loans
with low interest rates.

“Government is realising a huge
amount on cocoa annually, most
especially at the state level, we
are paying N3, 000 per ton on
every graded cocoa to the
government and we are not
assisted in any form.

“We buy the chemicals ourselves;
we borrow money to finance
ourselves and the farmers. There
is no single assistance from the
federal and the state

Ajeromi noted that many youths
are not venturing into the
business again because you have
to plan properly.

According to him, many people are
quitting the business because it is
frustrating. Even, so many youth
find it extremely difficult to
venture into the business.

The complaints of cocoa farmers
are not too different from that
of the traders. Apart from not
being well funded, they also
lament poor state of roads
through which they transport dry
cocoa beans from farm to the

An Indian, Anil Gopwani, used to
export cocoa to Europe from
Ondo State but like some others,
he has given up the business.
Although he started exporting
cocoa in 2002, he seems not
happy with how the business is
being run.

According to him, cocoa business
is no more dependable. It has no
clear cut policy from government.
Gopwani said the burden of over
pricing of cocoa at the local level
which is currently being sold at
N310, 000 per ton also forced
him out of the business in 2011.

He said, “I started cocoa
business in 2006 but quit the
business two years ago. The
market is not encouraging at all.
The system of buying cocoa in
Nigeria is not favourable at all.
Even the price at international
market keeps dropping every day.

“I don’t want to remain in a
business I will be running at a
loss. Because of this I have to
quit cocoa business. Imagine a
situation where you buy cocoa at
N310,000 per ton and by the time
you take it to Lagos you sell it
below the price.

“Though many are still in the
trade, but they are facing
different challenges before
moving cocoa to the international

Shedding more light on the issue
of unwholesome levies, the
National President of Cocoa
Association of Nigeria, Mr.
Sayina Riman, in a statement
issued in Akure last Monday, had
lamented the proposed plan by
the state government to increase
the tax on cocoa farmers.

Riman spoke in time against the
hike in the registration fee being
paid by the Licensed Buying
Agents, which was increased from
N15,000 to N60,000, while
another was raised from N80,000
to N250,000.

Riman advised the government not
to apply the same system that
was used to increase fees in
other sectors to agriculture,
saying the sector was the highest
employer of labour in the state.

The CAN president said such an
indiscriminate increase was
“inhuman, insensitive and does not
take the farmers into
consideration,” adding that the
government should return to
status quo ante.

Muikala Adekunle, a cocoa
farmer, lamented that high prices
chemicals they use for
maintaining their cocoa plantation
and which in return will give them
a bumper harvest.

He said lack of marketing board
has created an avenue for the
exporters and importers, mainly
whites to cheat them.

Like Adekunle, Nurudeen
Alowonle, another farmer, who
resides at Isale-Osun farm
settlement, said keeping a cocoa
farm required a substantial
funding, which many farmers do
not have. He, therefore, appealed
to the government to assist
through various loan programmes
to aid their farming.

According to Abdulateef
Agbelekale, owner of Omooke
Cocoa Store at Oke Bale, Osogbo,
the sales of cocoa are not
encouraging, saying the hard
times facing the dealers of the
products have made it
unattractive for prospective

Another cocoa merchant, Prince
Adeolu Olayemi, said one of their
greatest problems is the role the
Cocoa examiners, which in local
parlance are called Asasan.

He lamented that the officers
appointed to grade the products
and collect taxes on them on
behalf of the government over
tax. He said when they over tax
them they pass down the ‘burden’
to final buyers in form of a high

Owner of Hasgat Cocoa Store,
Kazeem Moshood, said the
seasonal nature of cocoa planting
and harvesting has made cocoa
very less lucrative these days.
According to him, the effects of
the poor rural feeder roads
linking the urban towns before
onward transportation of the
products outside the shores of
the country is yet another
challenge many of the farmers
are grappling with.

Another cocoa farmer in Atosin
Village said they always faced
difficult challenges on the road
before bringing cocoa to the

“Our roads are in bad condition,
most especially roads in the
villages. The roads have been like
that for years and both state and
federal governments are not
looking in that direction.

“In fact, most times we have to
pay huge amount of money to the
owners of big trucks to help us to
move our cocoa from the villages
to the town.”

An official of the Federal
Ministry of Agriculture who
spoke in confidence blamed the
federal government for
abandoning cocoa production and
farmers in the field because of
crude oil, which may soon dry off
He urged those in authority to
reconsider this and encourage
farmers to boost cocoa
production in the country.

Investigation by The Nation
revealed that most of the regular
cocoa farmers are peasant
farmers who delve into farming
mainly to sustain their families.
Majority of them are in their
middle age – in their 40s and 50s.

There is the fear that cocoa
farming in the town may soon
peter out as many of the young
men engaged in it are increasingly
taking to the commercial
motorcycle venture or gunning
for menial jobs in the cities.
Another constraint mentioned by
a group of cocoa farmers is that
they hardly benefit from the so-
called government intervention
funds/loans. They revealed that
even some of the seeds, especially
the high yielding ones, meant for
farmers, courtesy of the
government, are often hijacked
by ghost farmers while genuine
farmers are left out. Most of the
farmers are also still applying old
methods and tools due to

While in countries like
Ghana, most of the farmers are
using high yielding and improved
varieties, the old and regular
seeds are in vogue among Nigerian

Farmers are also ruing high
rainfall this year and have been
counting their losses. Another
setback identified by the
farmers is land unavailability.
Lands for cocoa cultivation are
becoming limited due to
urbanisation – the need to
construct houses, infrastructure
and other social and human

In all, the tales of cocoa farmers,
from the farms at the grassroots
to the stores in urbanised cities
are unison. It is that of hardship
and unpleasant. What the farmers
need is urgent intervention of
those in authorities with a strong
political will.

Success stories
Notwithstanding the plethora of
complaints by local farmers who
are convinced that things have
indeed fallen apart for the once
bourgeoning sector, the government seems to have a
different view.

Interestingly, the Minister of
Trade and Investment, Olusegun
Aganga, has said Nigeria realised
about $900m from the export of
cocoa and cocoa products in

He stated this during the national
sensitisation workshop of the
project on Sanitary Standards
Capacity Building in Africa in

In his address read by the Acting
Permanent Secretary, Mr.
Olakunle Sogboola, Aganga said
cocoa is the second largest
foreign exchange earner after
crude oil, generating over two
million jobs directly and
indirectly along its value chain.
According to him, “The global
market for cocoa is very huge,
growing at an average of 3% per
annum. Nigeria’s cocoa export has
equally grown over the years by
an average of 40% annually and a
cumulative of 280% from $215m
in 2006 to $822.8m from the
export of cocoa and cocoa
products last year.”

He added: “Nigeria is the world’s
fourth largest producer and
exporter of cocoa. Paradoxically,
over 90% of the cocoa produced
is exported. Our domestic
consumption of this strategic
commodity is barely 3%.”

0 Comments, Replies, Suggestions, Yarns: