Cocoa Farming Business in Nigeria
There are certain factors you have to consider before starting a cocoa farm:
Basic requirements for a Successful Cocoa Farming
One of the first steps to take when setting up a cocoa farm is to prepare a large expanse of land with the appropriate climate conditions and with a good steady rainfall supply while investing in good quality, disease-resistant, and high-yielding cocoa beans for planting.
Best Climate conditions for Cocoa Farming in Nigeria
Cocoa farming are only suitable under very specific climate conditions. Cocoa trees do not have affinity to too much sun, and its natural habitat is under the heavy rainforest canopy. That’s the reason why its not advisable to start a cocoa farm in the northern part of Nigeria.
Are you planning to start a cocoa farm in Kano, Kaduna or Abuja? That decision is futile; drop that bag…
Cocoa farm would only do well in states like; Rivers, Cross River, Ondo, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Delta, Bayelsa, I mean, all the western, Eastern and Southern states of Nigeria where the amount of rainfall is more compared to sunshine.
For a commercial scale cultivation of cocoa, the farmer must make sure that climatic condition is suitable enough for better yield. by planting the trees under the shade of crops such as oil palm, banana, rubber, coconut, mango, and orange trees. This will protect the cocoa pods from direct heat of the sun.
Cocoa trees need a consistent climatic temperatures of 21 to 32 degrees Celsius year round. It should not be lower than 15 C, and 100 to 250 cm of rainfall, and well distributed throughout the year.
Soil best conditions for cocoa production
Cocoa tree grows only under specific soil conditions. The trees require a deep, slightly acidic, and moist soil. The soil should contain coarse particles and have a depth of around 1.5 metres to allow for the proper growth development of a good root system.
A suitable soil for cocoa farming should be a well drained soil because while cocoa can withstand waterlogging for a short period of time, it will have a long term detrimental effect on the tree. Such soil must also have good water retention as the cocoa tree is also sensitive to a lack of water/drought.
The soil should have a high content of organic matter content, and certain anionic and cationic balances, while optimum nitrogen/phosphorous ratio should be around 1.5.
Other production requirements
To start cocoa farming, the investor also needs to purchase a storage and drying space. Most cocoa farmers own warehouses for the safekeeping of cocoa seeds. This usually have enough space outdoors to spread and dry the seeds. The seeds need to be dried in the sun for optimum drying and the drying period usually takes two weeks.
Other relevant equipment needed are scales for weighing, heavy duty and normal-sized sack, and water proof material for drying the seeds in the open air.
Varieties of Cocoa Trees
Before 1950, there were two main varieties of cocoa planted in Nigeria; the Amelonado cacao and the Trinitario varieties.
However, in recent times, there are several varieties of cocoa that are planted and cultivated in Nigeria. They include:
The Criollos: This is considered the finest and most luxurious of cocoa varieties. It has great dominance over other Varieties in the international market in the 18th century, but today, only very few pure Criollo trees remain. Nigeria has a small share of these Criollo trees. The seed is hardly bitter and it is mildly acidic with a mild cocoa taste and striking secondary tastes of fruits, tobacco and nuts. This breed is more susceptible to pests and fungal diseases, compared to others, and a breed that has smaller yields when compared to other cocoa breeds. It is also the most expensive breed.
The Forasteros: This particular variety is a very robust and hardy breed of cocoa, this breed accounts for more than eighty per cent of global cocoa cultivation. It is however not as aromatic as Criollo, and can in most cases have a bitter and/or acidic taste. It has a hard and rough back and is the most common breed cultivated in Nigeria.
The Trinitario: This is a breed derived from crossing Criollos and Forasteros. It combines the robustness of the Forastero with the powerful aromatic cocoa taste of the Criollo.
There are different ways to breed a cocoa tree. The most commonly used method is seeding.
Seeding: In this process, the cocoa tree is cultivated primarily from seeds. Beans are taken from pods within 15 days of harvest and are planted, while adhering to the soil and climatic conditions. Such seeds usually germinate and produce good plants.
Budding: Here, a bud is cut from a matured preferred tree and placed under a flap of bark of another cocoa tree. This is bound with raffia and waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent loss of moisture. When the bud begins to grow, the old tree above it can be cut off and discarded.
Cutting: Under this method, the farmer takes tree cuttings with an average of three and four leaves and one or two buds. The leaves are then cut in half and the cutting is placed in a pot under polythene until roots begin to grow. Once it starts to grow, it is transplanted to the farm.
Marcotting: In this process, the farmer removes a strip of bark from a branch and covers the area with sawdust and a polythene sheet. This area will thereafter produce roots and the branch can then be chopped off and replanted in the farm.
Cocoa Planting and Maturity
Cocoa nursery is usually done between October and January, while field transplanting is done between April and June.
After cocoa seeds are planted, it usually takes between three and five years to yield the first crop. Cocoa Hybrid varieties however can yield crops within two and three years.
Few years ago, cocoa farming experts in Nigeria started working on developing an early-maturing, high-yielding, disease-resistant beans to help double the country’s cocoa production.
Advantages of Cocoa Farming in Nigeria
There are many advantages of cocoa production business in Nigeria. They include:
Cocoa produce sells faster than any other agricultural produce in the world, and global demand by far exceeds supply.
Cocoa production in no small measure, helps to contribute to Nigeria’s GDP and move the country from its dependency on the oil industry.
Cocoa farming is a very profitable business.
Cocoa production helps to lessen the unemployment in the society.
Challenges faced by Cocoa Production in Nigeria
Normally, there is no business venture without risks, so cocoa farming is not an exception. Here are some of the risks involved cocoa farming:
Cocoa farming takes time, energy, effort, and patience hence it tends to be overwhelming for the newcomers.
Cocoa farming requires a constant scrutiny for diseases and rodents/pests, outbreak and the farmer has to constantly take protective and preventive measures in this regard.
The initial start up capital for cocoa business is very high i.e. it is capital intensive at the initial stage.
Other Important Tips for Great Cocoa Production in Nigeria
Cocoa Business Market research
The intending farmer must carry out a market research. Though the price of cocoa seeds doesn’t fluctuate so much, but the farmer must be able to determine through market research the potential clients, and determine/figure out ways to reach these clients.
You May need to Join the association
The Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) is an association formed to meet the peculiar needs of cocoa farmers, stakeholders, in ensuring development, sustainability and total growth of the sector. It is advisable for every cocoa farmer to join the organization to help foster collaboration for growth, and ensure empowerment of farmers by through imbibing technology, and transfer of knowledge and business development. CAN also stand to encourage scientific research aimed at improving the yield and quality of cocoa.
It is also a good recommendation to understudy someone who is already in the business. As this will help you learn the trade properly with high class perfection.
The place of knowledge cannot be overemphasized. In our technological world today, hence, farmers must keep up to date on the development of more disease resisting species, growing methods, and generally learn how to run their businesses in a more efficient and scientific manner.
Cocoa farming has more advantages than disadvantages, but the responsibility still rests on the cocoa farmer to make a success of his farm. A cocoa must be ready to go extra miles, and has to continually learn the best practices in order to take advantage of modern scientific breakthroughs and business etiquette to run the business successfully with more lucrative yield.