Cocoa export in Cameroon has been on a free fall for close to a year now. Information garnered from different publications show that as at mid 2012, exports only managed to reach 149,792 metric tonnes as against 174, 004 metric tonnes between January to June compared to same period in 2011. The decline is estimated at over 13.9 per cent. This drop comes after that of the period between November 2011 and January 2012 during which export moved from 34,510,644 to 17,803,252, representing an 11 per cent decline.
The drop, experts say, is partly due to a decline in prices which forced producers into speculation. With this, most of them do withhold their produce to be released only when the price is encouraging. The drop in export is largely blamed on dwindling production masterminded by the ravaging caterpillar attacks on cocoa plantations in the South West and South Regions as well as the outbreak of capsids (insects which feed on young branches of trees thus causing crop loss) in the Centre Region. Statistics show that over 80 per cent of Cameroon's cocoa output comes from the Centre and South West Regions.
In December 2011 till about end of January 2012, caterpillars ravaged over 50 hectares of cocoa plantations belonging to about 60 farmers in the South West production bastion of Kumba, Meme Division. The caterpillars fell on the trees eating up all the leaves and experts hold that once such a disaster occurs; it would need not less than two years for the trees to regain production. Government stepped in with insecticides worth over FCFA 20 million and coupled with the rain that fell, the ravaging effects were minimised but from all indications the damage was already caused.
Although the ongoing season is still to produce its results, indicators are already clear that the 240,000 metric tonnes of annual production of 2011 may not be attained. Also, last year's exports stood at 189, 731 metric tonnes and with the current trends, the same results is feared not attainable. And even the attack is a blow to quality which experts say counts a lot in the international market. The disease attack on cocoa crops must have sent wrong signals to clients, especially those abroad, who may be reticent, for fear of below-level quality, to buy cocoa from the country.
Stakeholders had predicted a 250,000 metric tonnes production in the 2011/12 season due mainly to cultivation of high-yielding species but with the current crisis, the National Cocoa and Coffee Board (NCCB) earlier this year expected between 195,000 to 200,000 metric tonnes in production this season.