Photograph — DevPolicy

The lockdown measures put in place to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic has led to thousands of tonnes of cocoa beans being stuck at the Lagos port and warehouses across the country, the Cocoa Association of Nigeria has revealed.

In an interview with Reuters, the president of the group, Mufutau Abolarinwa said some of the April’s orders were still being exported after the lockdown disrupted transport and port activities, affecting exporters as well as farmers of the cash crop.

“Around 5,000 to 6,000 tonnes of beans were stuck at Lagos port and warehouses in the country. The cocoa mid crop output is expected to be weak as measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus hindered farmers and exporters, creating a backlog of unshipped beans,” Abolarinwa said.

Nigeria exports cocoa, cashew, and sesame to cater to foreign demand. Findings reveal that exports of these commodities in 2018 led to foreign exchange earnings of about $800 million, accounting for over 70 percent of all agricultural exports. 

However, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the proceeds of the commodities are expected to suffer setbacks by the end of 2020. Falling demand for cocoa and cashew will see Nigeria lose over $160 million in exports this year, estimates show.

A report by Nairametrics says that cocoa is likely to face more setbacks than any other commodity, as 280,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans are produced annually in Nigeria with about 90 percent of this exported.

According to the report, Nigeria is at risk of a further decline in the demand for its cocoa, as the Western part of the world demands less of the product. Europe, the largest market for the country’s cocoa exports, is the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For instance, over 81 percent of Nigerian cocoa was exported to Europe in 2018, with 65 percent going to the Netherlands and Germany alone, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) said in a recent report.

Despite the government implementing a gradual easing of the month-long lockdowns in Lagos state, neighboring cocoa producing state, Ogun and the FCT,  Abolarinwa said the restriction on the interstate movement creates a headache for cocoa delivery.

He noted that ships are being quarantined at the port, thereby creating extra storage costs. “Trading houses are anxious to receive their shipments and delays could affect demand for further beans from farmers, especially as the mid crop harvest is about to start. We are hoping for an improvement,” Abolarinwa told Reuters. As the coronavirus continues to cause havoc even as most countries ease restrictions, the agricultural export sector is at a major risk. 

By Ahmed Iyanda.

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