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September 30, 2010

Cameroon Looks to Become Bordeaux of Cocoa Producers

by Ricci Shryock

Cameroon is working to better market its cocoa exports with plans to increase production nearly 40 percent over the next five years.

Geography should play a bigger role in cocoa and coffee marketing, say Cameroon's industry experts, such as Michael Ndoping, general manager of the country's National Cocoa and Coffee Board.

Ndoping said that as Cameroon looks to increase cocoa production, geographical indicators should play a wider role in identifying the price points for the country's cocoa and coffee exports. This approach can help market the products worldwide, so that consumers can identify the cocoa and coffee by its origins. He says wine is often marketed based on where the grapes are grown; therefore wines grown in certain regions can fetch higher prices.

"There's wine produced in France, In South Africa, in Australia," said Michael Ndoping. "But when you say you want Bordeaux, everybody thinks that's superior because they've attained that reputation. So the idea is that we want to differentiate our coffee and cocoa and go for higher prices."

Cocoa output in Cameroon, the world's fifth leading producer of the crop, dropped to 197,000 metric tons last season-down from 205,000 metric tons the year before.  But officials say exports are poised to rebound this year as unharvested trees begin producing again.

Ndoping, says that consumers are demanding more information about a product's origin, and Cameroon stands a clear chance of breaking into new markets because its coffee and cocoa have carved a niche on the global marketplace.

"So we want to introduce it for cocoa and coffee because cocoa and coffee are grown over seven regions in Cameroon and every region has different soil characteristics and different ecological environments," said Ndoping. "So you could easily differentiate our products by their geographical origins."

Just last month, cocoa exports from Cameroon were up 18 percent. Nearly 70 percent of the world's cocoa comes from West Africa.