Pests threaten Cameroon cocoa mid-crop
By Tansa Musa
YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon's cocoa mid-crop harvest is at risk to an outbreak of capsid bugs in the centre and caterpillars in the south-west, according to field reports from two regions that make up 80 percent of output.
Capsids are insects which attack trees, feed on the young branches and cause crop loss. They are most active when the young branches shoot out and spread during the dry weather afflicting the cocoa crop across West Africa.
Cameroon is the world's fifth largest grower. Production hit a record of 240,000 tonnes in 2010/11 with the Cocoa Development Company (SODECAO) expecting it to rise to 250,000 tonnes in 2011/12. However exports have been lagging in the season so far.
"We've so far had three months of persistent hard sunshine and dusty weather not good for cocoa plants which have been attacked by capsids," said local farmers' union president Emmanuel Nnogo Akolo from Emana, 70 km (40 miles) north of the capital Yaounde.
"Many members of our union have come to complain to me that their trees have lost or are losing leaves and dying because of the harmful effects of the insects, an indication that output will surely drop."
He said cocoa farmers had been told to use insecticides at least two times between August and December to prevent capsid attacks, but the practice had in some cases been neglected because they have not had the disease for the past five years.
Speaking to Reuters from main regional cocoa trading town Bafia, 135 km north of Yaounde, farmer Emmanuel Nguile said some 500 trees on his 60-ha farm were hit.
"For the first time during my 25 years of growing cocoa, we had to dig deep to obtain water because all streams near the farm have dried up," said Nguile, who is also vice-president of the 55,000-member National Organisation of the Cocoa and Coffee Producers in Cameroon (ONPCCC). Continued...