An estimated 75% of the cocoa beans being marketed in Cameroon’s leading cocoa-producing South West Region are contaminated by smoke, making the commodity more difficult to sell, the leader of the country’s biggest cocoa grouping told Dow Jones Newswires Friday.
“Right now, we’re in a situation where about 75% of the cocoa produced and sold in the South West region is affected by smoke,” said James Lobe Musima, president of the South West Regional College of Cocoa and Coffee Producers, told Dow Jones Newswires. “This is not in line with the required norms for marketing cocoa, and this is why we’re asking the government to come to our aid and assist us build new ovens to dry our cocoa.”
Farmers in the locality requested in October that the government push the Cocoa Development Fund (a government-crated body set up to provide financial support for the crop’s development) to make available XAF6.5 billion ($13.5 million) to construct 2,500 ovens for cocoa drying in this area, which experiences intensive and prolonged rainfall yearly.
Over half of Cameroon’s annual cocoa output of 240,000 metric tons comes from the southwestern region, according to official data. The excessive rains, muddy roads, and limited sunshine collectively hurt crop movements, making ovens crucial for post-harvest cocoa drying.
However, the farmers said the ovens are now dilapidated and smoke from their walls filters through cracks and contaminates the cocoa, rendering the beans less competitive on the local and world market, said Musima, who doubles as the vice president of the 500,000-member National Association of Cocoa and Coffee Producers in Cameroon.
Musima said Thursday that farmers in southwestern Cameroon need at half of the required funds to start building the ovens. He led a team of farmer leaders who made a 450 kilometre-long journey from the town of Kumba, to hand a request from the country’s minister of Trade last October.
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