Top 10 Mistakes in Cocoa Farming in Nigeria
Cocoa farming in Nigeria is one of the most profitable agribusinesses anyone can participate in. Cocoa as a crop was the main stay of the Nigerian economy before the discovery of crude oil.
Cocoa farming can provide financial sustainability for farmers and anyone interested in agriculture. Do you know that a tonne of cocoa beans is almost N1 million now? I have seen a lot of cocoa farmers who make good money from their farms every year.
Do you know cocoa can be used as a hedge against the falling value of the Naira? Cocoa is an international crop priced in US dollars.
As profitable as cocoa farming is in Nigeria, there are some pitfalls or mistakes you should strive to avoid. Some of the mistakes are explained below:
Planting old varieties of cocoa
You are likely not to make good income from cocoa farming in Nigeria if you plant the old varieties of cocoa. Old cocoa varieties like Amazon and Amelonado will only give you a very low yield per hectare. If you factor the cost of running the farm, you are likely not to make good money from cultivating the old varieties of cocoa. I strongly advise you cultivate the hybrid cocoa varieties like the TC series.
Cultivating on poor soil
One of the first rules of farming is to do an analysis or test for any soil you want to cultivate crops on. Cocoa seedlings prefer rich soil with a lot of humus. If your soil is poor, you will need to amend it and make it rich and healthy for the growing of cocoa. A soil test result will show the nutrient profile of your soil. You must use the right types of fertilizers and manure for your soil. Using microbial innoculants and humates can also significantly improve your soil.
Relying on the rains
You will argue that a lot of cocoa farmers rely 100% on rainfall in the cultivation of their crops. I will strongly advise you that you have irrigation in place if you really want to be a successful cocoa farmer. The climate change crisis has made rainfall erratic, even in the rainy season, the rains may not fall. Drip irrigation can reduce the time to maturity of your cocoa trees by as much as 30%, it can also improve yield by as much as 50-100%, especially if you practice fertigation.
Inadequate usage of fertilizers
I recently went to a cocoa farming community in Ondo East Local Government Area in Ondo State; I was shocked to see that almost all the cocoa farmers there do not use any fertilizers at all. A lot of these cocoa farmers harvest just 100-400kg of dry cocoa beans per hectare. Their yield is extremely low. The use of the appropriate types of fertilizers for cocoa can increase yield to up to 2-3 tonnes per hectare.
Types of fertilisers that can be used for cocoa farming include NPK fertilizers, calcium nitrate, potassium sulfate, potassium nitrate, chelate and Diammonium Phosphate. Humates like fluvic acid and humic acide can also be used for cocoa farming in Nigeria. Do not also forsake the use of microbial innoculums.
Before you use any type of fertilizers, it is advisable that you conduct a test for your soil.
Poor pest and disease management
Like all crops, cocoa will not do well if you do not effectively manage the pests and diseases affecting the crop. High quality pesticides which include fungicides, insecticides, acaricides and nematicides etc. should be used for your cocoa farm. Avoid too cheap pesticides as a lit of them are sub-standard.
A disease like black pod disease can reduce the yield of a cocoa farm by as much as 90% if not managed effectively. Insects can also damage the cocoa pods and make the beans unmarketable.
Poor management of weeds
Weeds can negatively impact cocoa seedlings. Weeds also harbor pests and diseases which can later go on to the cocoa trees and cause a lot of damages. As a cocoa farmer, you must strive to make your farm weed free. Luckily, there are herbicides that can make your cocoa farm weed free for up to 6 months.
Weak management of employees
You must devise an effective way of managing your farm hands or employees. Your employees can make or mar your cocoa farm. With poor management of your employees, you are sure to record losses on your cocoa farm.
Cocoa farming is a venture I advise anyone interested in agriculture to participate in.