Marketable cocoa production in the 2011-12 harvest season is said to have dropped by 5 per cent to 207,697 metric tonnes compared with 218,702 tonnes.
The National Cocoa and Coffee Board presented these figures in Mbanga last Friday, August 31 amidst lots of mixed feeling. The drop is blamed on climate change which experts say has been characterised by irregular rains in major cocoa producing zones, expensive pesticides and fungicides and caterpillar attacks on cocoa trees.
The figures presented at Mbanga are to say the least disappointing considering the importance of the cocoa sector to the national economy and to the lives of over 600,000 farmers and their families. The whole issue with the chocolate ingredient may not be as simple as one may imagine, but the truth is that regulations are being trampled upon. Every year, before the start of the cocoa season, the Minister of Trade issues directives to actors reminding them of the regulations in force. From every indication, these instructions fell on the deaf side of the ears of those expected to implement them.
In effect, the cocoa sector is one of the economic sectors that have been invaded by impostors, many who are making their mark. Unlicensed buyers comb all the nooks and crannies of cocoa production zones in search of farmers whom they know are in dire need of money. In disrespect of the rules of the game, they propose lower amounts for bigger quantities of beans, some of which have been smoked on fire or just harvested. Cases of theft of cocoa pods in the night have been reported in some parts of the Centre where young people in need of money harvest fresh pods and sell to unlicensed buyers.
These underground activities have incidentally paralysed the sector making it difficult for official institutions such as the Cocoa and Coffee Board and the Cocoa and Coffee Interprofession Board to produce reliable statistics on the crop. Unlicensed buyers do not declare what they buy for fear of sanctions. As Cameroon sets out to step up production by 40 per cent by 2016, it is important to redress the situation and ensure that the regulations are respected to the fullest.