Production hit a record of 240,000 tonnes in 2010/11, largely a result of improved farming techniques, good weather and the introduction of high-yielding tree varieties.
The drop is in line with an earlier forecast by the International Cocoa Organisation, which suggested that Cameroon’s output will dip to 200,000 tonnes this season.
The cocoa season for the world’s fifth-largest grower runs from August 1 to July 31, with the main harvest from October to January/February and the mid-crop from May to July.
“There have been very few beans on the market over the past two months because of the poor harvest compared with last year,” said Emmanuel Nnogo Akolo, who heads a farmer co-operative in the town of Emana in the Centre Region.
“For the first time ever, the dry season ran from October to mid-April – that is one month longer, and temperatures were particularly very high. This prevented plants from flowering properly and bearing fruit on time,” he said.
Caterpillars invaded the prime growing areas of Konye and Mbongue in the South West this year. And an outbreak of capsid bugs in the Centre Region eventually spread south, increasing the impact on mid-crop harvests.
“As you may know, capsids are insects that attack trees, feed on the young branches and cause a lot of damage to crops,” said James Lobe Mosima, vice-president of the National Association of Cocoa and Coffee Producers.
“They are very active when the young branches of trees just shoot out, and they spread out rapidly during dry periods. This was the case in all the leading growing regions of Cameroon, so production should fall.”
The Centre and South West regions each account for 40 percent of Cameroon’s cocoa bean output, the South for 15 percent and the East for 5 percent.