Contrary to the belief that China and Australia’s entry into cocoa production possesses threat to West African growers, cocoa farmers in Nigeria are optimistic that the break-in by both countries will be beneficial to them in accelerating cocoa production. Indeed, better pricing for cocoa beans and access to cheaper processing machines to spur value addition in Nigeria are big wins the farmers see as the world’s second-largest economy joins the community of cocoa-producing nations. “China now in the cocoa game is an opportunity for Africa and not a threat,” Dokun Thompson, the Oloni of Eti- Oni and chairman of the Eti- Oni Development Group noted.
“China is known for cheap technology and their entry means the African market will start seeing cheaper machines for grinding the raw beans,” Thompson, who is also the convener of the yearly Eko Chocolate show, stated. He said countries in the West African region still heavily relied on exporting raw beans as local processing, which offers the chance to build up revenue and create employment, is still very low owing to high operating cost of machines. This would soon be a thing of the past with China now in the game.
According to him, over 70 per cent of the world’s cocoa beans are used for production by large chocolate producers in North America and Europe to make their sweet goods come from West Africa. However, millions of smallholder farmers who depend on the crop for their livelihoods often have little or nothing to show for the cultivation of the commodity.
The low income earned by these farmers is a reflection of low international pricees, which has forced Ghana and Ivory Coast to create a cartel and placed a minimum market price for their beans. Cocoa farmers in Nigeria believe the low pricing era of the raw beans will soon be a thing of the past with the recent entrance of China and Australia into the production of the crop. “China and Australia’s entry into the cocoa market is not a threat to Nigeria; instead it is a plus,” Robo Adhuze, chief operating officer, Centre for Cocoa Development Initiative, agreed.
“Cocoa prices are low because they are grown by poor countries, but with the entry of China a global power-house, and Australia, smallholder farmers will start seeing better pricing for their beans,” says Adhuze, who also owns a cocoa farm in Idanre – Ondo State.