June 20, 2019 / 1:54 PM / a month ago

Heavy rains dampen Nigeria's 2018/19 cocoa outlook

LAGOS, June 20 (Reuters) - Heavy rainfall and poor sunshine across Nigeria’s cocoa-growing regions raises the likelihood of black pod disease which would hurt the main crop this season, an industry body said on Thursday.

Farmers in Nigeria, the world’s fourth-biggest cocoa grower, are growing increasingly worried about bean quality and black pod disease in the wake of heavier rains. Besides preventing mould, sunny weather is also needed for a bigger bean size.

Sayina Riman, president of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), said the 2018/19 season has seen flash floods.

“Black pod is coming and it would be evident in the main crop,” said Riman, who farms on a 170-hectare cocoa plantation in Nigeria’s second-biggest region of Cross Rivers.

Cocoa trees need a delicate balance of rainy and dry weather. Too little rain and they wither; too much and they become susceptible to insects or fungal black pod disease. Beans can also go mouldy if small farmers are unable to dry them outside.

Riman said the cocoa trees are at the fruiting stage ahead of the main crop but the weather could affect pod formation.

The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) has forecast the 2018/19 output will be 245,000 tonnes, whereas CAN had forecast a 30% rise from last season’s estimate of 250,000 tonnes.

Riman said the association was now waiting for the end of the mid-crop before revising its figures.

He said farmgate prices have declined to around 720,000 naira ($2,353) per tonne from 850,000 naira in January.

However, prices could recover after the world’s two biggest producers - Ivory Coast and Ghana - agreed last week to impose a price floor of $2,600 per tonne on the chocolate ingredient, Riman said.

Nigeria was not involved in that decision, Riman said, but added that there had been concerns over the price of the commodity. He said the issue would be on the table at the next ICCO meeting in September in Ivory Coast. ($1 = 306.00 naira) (Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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