News / Africa

Cameroon: Cocoa Growers Profit from Ivorian Crisis

Crisis in Ivory Coast boosts the earnings of Cameroonian cocoa farmers



In recent months, cocoa growers in Cameroon have been happy.Prices for their crop have reached an all-time high of 1,400 FCFA [about US $3] per kilogram.  That’s about double the high reached three years ago.

Officials at Cameroon’s National Cocoa and Coffee Board attribute the price spike partly to the protracted political impasse in the world’s top producer, Ivory Coast.  The country accounts for 40 percent of global production.  It’s been plunged into a quagmire since November following contested presidential election results.

Cocoa pods
Cocoa pods

Mr. Gbagbo is under increasingly severe international pressure to cede power to Mr. Ouattara, widely considered to be the winner.  European Union sanctions aimed at forcing Mr. Gbagbo to hand over power are now threatening cocoa shipments from Ivory Coast, which produces a yearly average of 1.3 million tons.

Michael Ndoping, managing director of the Cameroon Cocoa and Coffee Board, says although prices are generally determined by supply and demand, commodities are rising because of speculation about the effect of the political crisis on Ivoirian farmers.

“We’re mixing two things.  We’re talking politics, we’re talking business.  Like you would know, the Ivory Coast is the No. 1 producer of cocoa in the world.  So anything that happens in Cote d’Ivoire invariably has an impact on the market.  We’ve noticed since August that prices have been sustained.  We think that the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire has an impact.  So that could account for the sustainable prices we’ve noticed for the last six months,”  Ndoping says.

Experts predict the soaring prices will go through the roof if the standoff degenerates into warfare, impeding Ivorian exports.  Meantime, producing countries are preparing to take advantage of the situation as anxiety steadily grows among chocolate manufacturers in the West.

Bags of cocoa for export
Bags of cocoa for export

In Ghana, the world's second largest producer, officials are even pondering ways to reposition the country as the world’s leading producer if Ivorian exports are eventually disrupted.  Ivory Coast’s cocoa production overtook Ghana’s in 1978.

In Cameroon, renewed efforts at reviving the sector have been paying off.  Production rose to 205,000 tons in the 2008/09 season and Ndoping says halfway into the current season, prospects are even brighter.

“We launched the season in August.  As of today, we’ve exported 174,000 tons and that to us is a very big jump because last year at this period, we were at 134,000 tons.  So there’s a difference of almost 40,000 tons and that’s a remarkable increase and so we can say the sector is doing very well.  By the end of July, we should surpass 200,000 tons,”  Ndoping explains.

The steadily rising prices are encouraging farmers to revive and expand abandoned plantations.

Growth in production of cocoa in Cameroon stalled in the late 1980s as world market prices slumped and high export taxes forced farmers to switch to staple crops like grain.  

But since 2005, a combination of efforts has culminated in rekindled interest in cocoa.  Export taxes have been scrapped, and farmers are benefitting from several programs providing high-yielding seedlings for free or at subsidized rates.

The programs have also sponsored access to inputs such as fertilizer and pesticides.  This year some five million plants are expected to be distributed, and an additional 4,000 hectares of cocoa plantations will be created.

Cristel Pound, a grower in the country’s South Region says the Ivorian situation presents a golden opportunity to improve quality and quantity.  

“ At the moment, weather conditions are favorable.  There is low rainfall, which favors production and ample sunshine, which encourages fermentation and also allows us to dry our beans for longer periods.  We’ve also noticed few cases of blackpod disease.  That implies we can improve both our quantity and quality in a very short time.  The decision-makers should now play their role,” Pound says.

Across Cameroon, farmers like Pound say the country’s infrastructure is a major drawback to rapid growth in cocoa, and all agricultural production.  Poor transport links make it difficult and costly for farmers to get their products to market.

But the government says it is gradually building new roads to make production areas more accessible.  It also says it’s setting up conservation units and processing plants and giving growers groups market information and best farming techniques.

It has also waged war against middlemen accused of not maintaining standards.  Some convince cash-strapped farmers to sell them insufficiently-dried and fermented cocoa beans, which they then sell to exporters. They’re also accused of not giving farmers a fair price for their goods.

The government support package also includes duty exemptions on inputs like improved seeds and pesticides.

Many farmers groups have launched calls for the government to quickly disburse large subsidies while the Ivorian deadlock lasts.  They say the crisis should serve as a motivation for them to increase production.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs