Cameroon’s cocoa season runs throughout the year with the main harvest period being between October and February. Official figures show production to have stagnated within the range of 98,000 to 134,000 tonnes per annum from 1990 to 2002 but then to have increased sharply, breaking through 200,000 tonnes in 2009 and totaling an estimated 236,000 tonnes in the 2010-2011 harvest. Despite production growth, Cameroonian yields remain low. Potential yields of cocoa cultivation are 2 to 3 tonnes per hectare; however the average yield across Cameroon remains below 400kg per hectare.

Cocoa Production

Cocoa remains the main cash crop to more than 75% of the population in Cameroon. Its production is mainly by peasant farmers who, even though they are the main producers of the high demand crop, do not earn sufficient income to meet their needs and maintain a moderate standard of living. They are left to suffer, which endangers the cocoa sector and their entire livelihood. Cameroon is Africa’s fourth biggest grower of cocoa and currently the world’s fifth cocoa producer behind, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Brazil and Nigeria.

Cocoa Production

Cocoa Production

Cocoa remains the main cash crop to more than 75% of the population in Cameroon. Its production is mainly by peasant farmers who, even though they are the main producers of the high demand crop, do not earn sufficient income to meet their needs and maintain a moderate standard of living. They are left to suffer, which endangers the cocoa sector and their entire livelihood. Cameroon is Africa’s fourth biggest grower of cocoa and currently the world’s fifth cocoa producer behind, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Brazil and Nigeria.

Cameroon’s cocoa season runs throughout the year with the main harvest period being between October and February. Official figures show production to have stagnated within the range of 98,000 to 134,000 tonnes per annum from 1990 to 2002 but then to have increased sharply, breaking through 200,000 tonnes in 2009 and totaling an estimated 236,000 tonnes in the 2010-2011 harvest. Despite production growth, Cameroonian yields remain low. Potential yields of cocoa cultivation are 2 to 3 tonnes per hectare; however the average yield across Cameroon remains below 400kg per hectare.

HARVESTING THE COCOA BEANS

Pods containing cocoa beans grow from the trunk and branches of the cocoa tree. Harvesting involves removing ripe pods from the trees and opening them to extract the wet beans. The pods are harvested manually by making a clean cut through the stalk with a well sharpened blade. For pods high on the tree, a pruning hook type of tool can be used with a handle on the end of a long pole. During harvesting it is important not to damage the flower cushion which will produce the flowers and fruits of subsequent harvests, and care must be taken not to damage the tree, which would make it easy for parasitic fungi to penetrate the tissues of the tree.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

FERMENTATION PROCESS

Fermentation can be carried out in a variety of ways, but all methods depend on removing the beans from the pods and piling them together or in a box to allow micro-organisms to develop and initiate the fermentation of the pulp surrounding the beans. The piles are covered by banana leaves. The fermentation process begins with the growth of micro-organisms. In particular, yeasts grow on the pulp surrounding the beans. Insects, such as the Drosophila melanogaster or vinegar-fly, are probably responsible for the transfer of micro-organisms to the heaps of beans. The length of fermentation varies depending on the bean type, Forastero beans require about 5 days and Criollo beans 2-3 days.

DRYING PROCESS

Cocoa beans are dried after fermentation in order to reduce the moisture content from about 60% to about 7.5%. Drying must be carried out carefully to ensure that off-flavours are not developed. There are two methods for drying beans - sun drying and artificial drying. For sun drying, the beans are spread out on mats, trays or on concrete floors in the sun. The simplest forms of artificial driers are convection driers or Samoan driers which consists of a simple flue in a plenum chamber and a permeable drying platform above. Artificially dried beans can be of poor quality due to contamination from the smoke of fires or because the cocoa is dried too quickly.

DRYING PROCESS
BAGGING FOR TRANSPORTATION

BAGGING FOR TRANSPORTATION

The dried cocoa beans of 7.5% humidity is bags in old jute bags to ensured good quality and maintain humidity and flavor. The collection is done from farmers to farmers, or small farmers groups and cooperatives. The beans are then transported to local or export warehouses and prepared for export.

STORAGE FACILITY FACTORS

STORAGE FACILITY FACTORS

  • The warehouse should have cement or non-flammable floors without cracks and crevices for insects to hide in.
  • Ideally the floor level should be higher than the surrounding land to prevent flooding and to allow water to flow away.
  • Walls should be of non-flammable material without cracks and crevices.
  • Adequate ventilation is necessary to prevent an increase in mould.
  • The roof should be insulated but should not be made of wood.
  • Bags may be bulk-stowed but ideally the bottom layer should be on pallets allowing an air space of 5-10cm and the top layer should be at least 1m away from the roof. The stacks should also be positioned away from outside walls.
  • Fumigation and other forms of insect control can be carried out to ensure that the products are pest-free.
  • The cocoa should be regularly inspected.
  • No other products should be stored with the cocoa to prevent contamination.
  • Access to the storage areas can be controlled.

RISKS AND ANALYSIS

RISKS AND ANALYSIS

  • The cocoa sector in some parts of the country is faced with the issue of aging plantations and older generation of farmers who in some instances are uneducated in the use of fertilisers which is often a factor related to reduced yields.
  • An additional risk to the industry is the somewhat technological backwardness and lack of adequate conservation and storage equipment serving the industry which would better allow for the industry to fully flourish and develop.
  • Despite the government announcing in recent years that it intends to increase production by 37% by 2016 concerns have arisen over matching this increase in the production of the crop with that of processing facilities in-country in order to add value to the crop.
  • An additional concern that has been made by some is that Cameroon should perhaps look to increase the quality of the cocoa produced rather than simply the quantity.

FORECASTS

On a general level, Cameroon’s cocoa industry is benefitting from increased investment, improved industry fundamentals and better macroeconomic conditions, forecasts also envisage positive consumption growth for the commodity.

Demand will be supported by an economy that is predicted to expand at an average annual rate of 4.3% to 2016. Growing domestic demand for cocoa will be fuelled by rising disposable incomes.

Cocoa production growth to 2015/16 is estimated to increase by 13.6% to 269,000 tonnes – over the long term, Cameroon’s cocoa industry is expected to benefit from better crop management techniques, as well as increased private and public sector investment.

Cameroon’s agriculture sectors stand to benefit from infrastructure improvements. In September 2011 the government announced plans to spend CFA 175bn (US $379mn) on constructing roads over the next 10 years

– building around 350km of roads each year over the next decade. New roads in particular will enable farmers to move more effectively their produce to market, thereby reducing waste and ensuring that a greater proportion of their crops can be sold domestically or internationally.

FORECASTS

SUMMARY

The level of cocoa production and the predicted growth expected to occur within the coming years could see Cameroon overtake Nigeria as Africa’s third largest producer, which is very impressive. If producers in Cameroon can make significant inroads in terms of improving the quality of the crop there will be further significant gains to be had. Further still, if the service and quality of in-country processing plants can be better developed, it will also allow for the industry to develop and better serve the domestic market for processed goods and perhaps reduced to dominance of three major exports of cocoa from Cameroon, enabling the country to establish better clientele.

SUMMARY