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Cocoa Farming – A Lifetime Pension Scheme in Nigeria

Cocoa farming is the cultivation of cocoa trees. Cocoa farming in Nigeria was the mainstay of the Nigerian economy before the advent of crude oil. Cocoa called Theobroma Cacao is a perennial tree crop which can grow up to 4-8 metres depending on the variety planted. Cocoa is grown in tropical environment and mostly found in Africa, Latin America and parts of Southern Asia.

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast) is the largest producer of cocoa beans in the world. It accounted for about 30% of the total global production in the year 2018. The other leading producers of cocoa beans in the world are Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroun, Indonesia and Brazil. Cocoa was once the key foreign exchange income generator for Nigeria.

Cocoa was a key agricultural export commodity and a top foreign exchange earner in the 1950-1960 before the commercial discovery of crude oil, Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa.

Average cocoa production dipped from 420,000 tonnes in the 1960s to 170,000 tonnes in 1999. Production increased to about 390,000 tonnes between 2000 and 2010, but fell back to about 190,000 tonnes in 2015 and 2016. Nigeria is now the sixth largest producer of cocoa in the world, though some people believe this statistics is not right because a lot of the cocoa beans produced in Nigeria are smuggled to neighboring countries like Benin, Togo and Cameroun.

I am sure that everybody knows that cocoa farming can be very profitable if done the right way. One of the derivatives of cocoa is chocolate. Chocolate is one of the most popular cocoa snacks in the world. It is widely consumed in almost all countries of the world.

Cocoa farming just like other cash crops can provide a life-long pension for smart investors. You do not need to be old before you start planning for your old age. Investing in cocoa farming by owning a cocoa farm can guarantee you a lifelong of pension, even after your passing, your children can still benefit from the proceeds of your cocoa farm.

It is better to start your cocoa farm at a young age, though you can start at any age. The new hybrid cocoa varieties start fruiting as from two to two and half years. This is a very short time considering the life-long returns you will get from the cocoa farm.

At Veggie Grow, we assist people to enjoy a lifetime pension by helping with the SET-UP of cocoa farms or plantations, sell cocoa seedlings, irrigation systems, fertilisers and pesticides to people and advise people on how they can maximize the returns from their cocoa farms.

You may contact us through +2348025141924 or sales@veggiegrow.ng.

cocoa farming in nigeria

Economics of cocoa farming in Nigeria

A cocoa farmer once lived in the ancient town of Ondo in Ondo State, Nigeria; he had a lot of cocoa farms around the villages of Ondo town in the 1950s. This cocoa farmer had 8 wives and over 40 children. He sent 35 of his 40 children to top universities in the UK and the US from the proceeds of his cocoa farm. The cocoa farmer died a very rich man, till today, his children and grandchildren are still earning millions of naira annually from his cocoa farm.

The demand for cocoa keeps increasing every year. Cocoa is a global commodity that is traded on different commodity exchanges all over the world. I have not heard of any country of the world where cocoa or its derivatives are not used or consumed. The popularity of cocoa has made it a hugely demanded commodity everywhere in the world.

Cocoa farming was introduced to Nigerians by the colonialists in 1805. The largest producing state in Nigeria is Ondo State, closely followed by Cross Rivers State. There are large number of cocoa farmers in Ekiti, Osun, Oyo and Ogun. The states of Ondo, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun and Ogun produce 70% of the total cocoa beans in Nigeria.

Cocoa is also produced in significant quantity in Edo, Kogi, Delta. It will be surprising to learn that cocoa is also produced in Adamawa and Abia, though in small quantity.

Ecological Requirement of Cocoa

Cocoa grows well under tropical conditions; it does cannot grow in temperate areas. Cocoa also favours humid conditions; this is why most cocoa farms are found in humid tropical areas of the world.

Cocoa trees do well in tropical rain forest and prefer shade especially at the early growth stage. Cocoa will d well where annual rainfall is between 900mm – 1600mm. The temperature must not be above 40C otherwise the cocoa trees will not bear fruits. Cocoa trees also favour humus soil, though they can grow in other types of soil. The preferred Ph for cocoa production is 5.0 – 7.0.

To set up a cocoa farm, soils with hard pan should be avoided. Also farmland that is too steepy or sloppy should be avoided.

Varieties of Cocoa for Cocoa Farming

Cocoa Varieties in Use in Nigeria

Hitherto, in Nigeria, open pollinated varieties of cocoa are cultivated. Today, the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRN) has developed the TC Series or T series which are hybrid with a much higher yield and shorter maturity time. They also have good resistances to black pod disease, the most common cocoa disease in Nigeria. The hybrid varieties developed by CRIN include T9/15, T12/11, T19/9, T24/12, T50/32 and T86/2.

CRIN also developed other varieties as listed below:

  • T7/12 X Na321 (C64)
  • T12/5 X Pa35 (C65)
  • T17/11 X Na32
  • T20/21 X Na32
  • T30/10 X Na32
  • T65/7 X Na32
  • T85/5 X Pa35
  • ICS1 X Na32
  • ICS7 X Na32
  • C77 X C23 (CSSV tolerant)
  • C77 X C64 (CSSV tolerant)
  • C77 X C87 (WACRI series 11F)
  • C75 X C14 (WACRI series 11KC)
  • C75 X C25 (WACRI series 11D).

Source: CRIN 2015

Cocoa has a lot of varieties; they are grouped under three categories as explained below:

Criello Group (Cacao dulce or sweet cocoa)

This is variety is native to Central America. It can be found in Mexico and other Central American Countries.

  • The trees are thinner than other varieties with thinner leaves
  • The cocoa pods from this variety are mostly purple or green or yellow in colour.
  • The cocoa pods of this variety are easy to break.
  • The cocoa beans have low fat content
  • This variety is highly susceptible to diseases and pests
  • The yield can reach 1.5 tonnes per hectare

Forastero group (Cacao amargo or bitter cocoa)

The varieties under this group are commonly cultivated in Venezuela and Ecuador. It is also commonly grown in Nigeria, Ghana and Brazil. The attributes of this group are explained as follows:

  • The pods are green when unripe and yellow when ripe.
  • The coco pods of these varieties are not easy to break.
  • The cocoa trees are tough and hardy.
  • They have high resistance to pests and diseases.
  • The cocoa beans have low fat content.
  • The trees have large leaves.
  • The varieties also have a relatively high yield.

How to Raise Cocoa Seedlings for Cocoa Farming

Selection of the site for nursery: The site to be chosen for raising cocoa seedlings should have an all year round supply of water and also have access to good quantity of organic matter and top soil. In Nigeria, cocoa seedlings nursery usually start from September – November so that the seedlings can be transplanted in April/May during the rainy season.

Nursery Site Preparation: To make the site ready for cocoa seedlings nursery, all trees and stumps must be removed. The soil must be leveled and all debris must also be removed from the site. If the site is unsafe, fencing can be provided.

Nursery Shed: A shed should be erected for the nursery. The shed will protect the seedlings from the intensity of sun. Excessive sunlight may negatively impact the cocoa seedlings. Planks or bamboo can be used as stands while constructing the shed. Large trees with shade can also serve as a shed for cocoa seedlings nursery.

Selection of planting materials: In Nigeria, the most popular cocoa propagation method is through seeds. Seeds are placed in soil bags to germinate into seedlings. Seeds to be used for propagation should be taken from cocoa pods that are ripe and in good condition. Ripe pods from high yielding and disease resistant varieties should be used for propagation.

The use of polybags: Polybags should be used for the raising of cocoa seedlings. The polybags should be filled with forest top soil mixed with some organic matter. The poly bags should be black in colour with size 12.5cm by 30 cm.

The poly bags should be well irrigated or watered before the planting of the cocoa seeds. A sharp cutlass should be used to carefully cut through the cocoa pods in order to get access to the seeds. The seeds should be planted into the soil in the poly bag as soon as possible. A cocoa pod has an average of 30 seeds.

Cocoa plantation can also be raised through budding and grafting. Grafting is similar to cutting.

How to manage cocoa seedlings nursery

It is common in Nigeria for cocoa farmers not to put any description on their cocoa seedlings nursery. It is a good practice to put a description on your cocoa seedlings nursery, the description should contain information like the type of seeds, date of sowing, number of seeds planted and where you bought the seeds.

Watering should be regular, excessive amount of water should not be applied on the young cocoa seedlings as this can cause problems for the plants. Water is best applied to the roots of the cocoa seedlings, not the foliage. Applying water on the leaves and stems of the cocoa seedlings can encourage fungal infections on the cocoa seedlings. This can lead to death of the seedlings. Not giving the cocoa seedlings adequate water can also lead to death or stunted growth of the seedlings.

The nursery should be clear of weeds at all time. If the cocoa seedlings are in bags, weeds should not be allowed to grow inside the bags. Care should be exercised when uprooting weeds.

During the early growth stage of cocoa, shade is needed. A shade can be developed using pam fronds or shade nets.

Shortly before transplanting the cocoa seedlings to the field, the seedlings should be hardened up. Hardening up of cocoa seedlings involves the gradual removal of shade from the nursery so that the seedlings can get acclimatized to the conditions in the open field.

Fungicides and insecticides should be used to prevent diseases in the nursery. Cocoa seedlings are susceptible to diseases and pests.

cocoa plantation in nigeria

Factors to consider when setting up a cocoa farm or plantation

The following should be considered when setting up a cocoa plantation or farm:

Farmland site location: It is better to site your cocoa farm in a virgin forest. Cocoa trees grow well under natural forest conditions. A cocoa farm should be sited in a location with adequate rainfall. The forested zones of Nigeria are perfect locations for cocoa plantations.  Plantain and other tall trees can be pre-planted before transplanting the cocoa seedlings; these trees will serve as shade. Cocoa seedlings at early stage like shade. The shade trees should be arranged in such a way that they will provide shade for the transplanted cocoa seedlings.

Clearing of land: Extra care should be exercised when clearing land for the cultivation of cocoa. If bulldozers must be used, the top soil must not be removed. Few trees that will act as shade should also be left untouched.

Transplanting: The transplanting of cocoa seedlings is dependent on the rains as most cocoa farmers in Nigeria practice rain fed farming. Cocoa seedlings are usually transplanted in Nigeria in May when the rains are expected to have been stable. Wrong timing of transplanting can spell doom to your cocoa seedlings. If you have irrigation in place, you can transplant your cocoa seedlings anytime. Planting holes should be 20cm x 20cm x 20cm spaced at 3m x 3m giving a population of 1111 plants/ha. Unhealthy seedlings should not be transplanted. It is advisable to dig planting holes for 7-14 days before transplanting. Manure and fertilisers can be added as filler when covering the planting hole.

Fertiliser Application: If you establish your cocoa plantation in a virgin forest, soil fertility may not be a big issue. However, you still need to add nutrients to your soil in order to get good yield from your cocoa farm.

For virgin forest, in the first year of planting, apply 100kg of NPK 15:15:15 and 125kg of SSP fertilizer per hectare. In the second year, apply 100kg of NPK 15:15:15 and 50kg of SSP fertilizer per hectare.

In the third to fourth year, apply 200-400 kg of NPK 12:12:17 plus Mg every year.

If your soil is acidic, lime should be applied.

The fertilizer should be buried 15 cm away from the cocoa tree.

Please note that you are advised to do a soil test so that an accurate fertilization plan can be designed for you.

Maintaining a cocoa farm in Nigeria

Shade should be provided in the first few years, cocoa seedlings like shade. The shade trees should be planted in such a way that they will not use all the sunlight needed by the cocoa seedlings.

Mulching is very important in cocoa cultivation. Immediately after the rains say October, newly transplanted cocoa seedlings should be mulched. Mulching will improve water conservation during the dry season, it will also prevent weeds.

Weeds should be taken off as soon as possible. As a matter of fact, the cocoa plantation should be clear of weeds at all times. For small cocoa farms, hand weeding can be done. However, for large cocoa plantations, the use of herbicides and intercropping can be used. Weeds can contribute to the incidence of black pod cocoa disease and other fungal diseases as they increase the humidity in the cocoa farm. Weeds can also bring pests and other diseases to the plantation. Herbicides like paraquat and glyphosate can be used for weeding in cocoa plantation. When using glyphosate, extreme care should be exercised; it must not touch the cocoa seedlings or trees at all.

Cocoa trees should be pruned after every 2 years. Pruning is done to remove unwanted branches and leaves. Pruning can help in reducing diseases outbreak and also improve yield. Hydrogen peroxide or other pesticides can be used to treat all pruned surfaces in order to guard against diseases.

cocoa farming

Diseases and Pests of Cocoa

Black Pod Disease: This is the commonest disease of cocoa in Nigeria and other forested areas where cocoa is widely cultivated. This disease is caused by the fungus Phythopthora palmivora. This disease infects the leaves, fruits and trunk of cocoa. The black pod disease can damage cocoa pods and make them unmarketable. It can also impact the photosynthetic ability of the cocoa tree. Cocoa black pod disease in very common in the rainy season and can be spread by rain splashes, infected farm tools like cutlasses and rodents.

This disease can be controlled with the use of fungicides like Ridomil, Apron 35 and Cabrio Duo etc. Some biopesticides can also help in controlling the disease. Infected cocoa pods should also be removed.

Swollen Shoot Disease: This disease is transmitted by mealy bug. It causes swellings on shoots and toots which can lead to small cocoa pods and reduced yield. Planting resistant variety can be used as a tool to control this disease.

Die Back Disease: This disease is caused by Calonectria Regidiuscula. , it is spread by  mirid bugs and capsid. This disease can cause the death of leaves and branches which will ultimately lead to reduced yield.

It can be controlled by spraying insecticides on the cocoa intermittently.

Cocoa Canker disease: This disease is caused by Phytophthora Palmivora, it affects the stem of the cocoa tree. It can lead to the death of the cocoa tree if not quickly tackled.

The cutting of the stem or area affected by the disease can control the disease. Fungicides can also be used.

The pests that affect cocoa include the following:

Cocoa Mirids: These are called capsids. Examples of cocoa mirids are brown mired, black mired and cocoa mosquito. The mirids can be controlled with the use of good insecticides like Belt Extra, Tihan, Thunder and Laraforce Gold etc.

Cocoa Mealybugs: These pests can damage the leaves, stems and also transmit other diseases to cocoa trees. They can be controlled by insecticides like Belt Extra, Tihan, Thunder and Laraforce Gold etc.

Other pests include aphids, caterpillars and termites etc.

Harvesting in cocoa farming

The harvesting time will vary as per the variety of cocoa a farmer cultivates. Hybrid cocoa varieties can mature in 2-3 years, so a cocoa farmer can start harvesting within 2-3 years of planting. The older cocoa varieties may delay till 5-7 years before the first harvest.

Cocoa fruits can take up to 5 months to ripe and ready for plucking. A sickle shaped pruning hook is usually used by cocoa farmers in Nigeria to harvest ripe cocoa pods. Care should be taken when harvesting the cocoa pods.

The cocoa pods should not be harvested in such a way that it will create wounds on the cocoa trees. The wounds can serve as entry points for pathogens and diseases.

Pods Breaking in cocoa farming

Cocoa pods are usually broken by cutlasses so that the beans inside them can be removed. The cocoa beans are the most important part of the cocoa pods.

Fermentation

Fermentation is done for cocoa beans in order to reduce the bitterness of the cocoa beans, remove the cocoa beans pulp, make the embryo of the cocoa beans sterile, kill pathogens and improve the flavor, colour and taste of the cocoa beans.

Fermentation can be done by using heaps of beans wrapped with plantain leaves. This type of fermentation process can take 5-7 days.

A raffia basket lined and cover with plantain leaves can also be used for the fermentation of cocoa beans. This process can take 4.6 days.

For large plantations, large wooden boxes covered with sacks or plantain leaves are used to ferment cocoa beans. This method enables good aeration and shortens the time of fermentation.

Bagging and drying of cocoa beans

The drying of cocoa beans prevents them from spoilage. It also prevents the growth of fungi and molds on the cocoa beans. It is recommended that the cocoa beans are dried to the extent that the moisture content in the beans will be 6-7%. Drying of cocoa beans can be done in an open area with sun. Some big time cocoa farmers also have specially designed oven where cocoa beans can be dried.

Properly dried cocoa beans have a nice smell. After the completing of drying, the cocoa beans are usually bagged in 50kg jute bags.

Storage, Cocoa Quality and Grading

In Nigeria, most cocoa dealers have warehouses where cocoa beans are stored in 50kg jute bags. The cocoa beans are weighed on scales before being stored. The warehouse for storing cocoa beans should have a good air flow in order to prevent the development of molds and other fungal diseases.

Cocoa beans are also graded according to quality. The best quality of cocoa beans should be free of molds, well dried and also free of contaminants.

At Veggie Grow, we assist people to enjoy a lifetime pension by helping with the SET-UP of cocoa farms or plantations, sell cocoa seedlings, irrigation systems, fertilisers and pesticides to people and advise people on how they can maximize the returns from their cocoa farms.

You may contact us through +2348025141924 or sales@veggiegrow.ng.

Cocoa farming in Nigeria can be your lifetime pension investment. It does not matter if you are young or old, you can start now.

Ayo Akinfolarin
 

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