The potentials of cocoa farming in Nigeria should never be underestimated. Before the oil boom, cocoa was one of the country’s main source of foreign exchange. It was exported to other West African countries and other parts of the world.
Following the arrival of oil cocoa farming in Nigeria dwindled as people, and the government, became more interested in oil. As a result, the country’s finances were focused in that direction.
Despite this, the market still holds a lot of promise for Africa’s most populous nation. That is why at the moment, the federal government is trying to make people more interested in cocoa farming. Programs have been put in place to ensure it’s easier to practice cocoa farming in Nigeria and the populace is responding, slowly.
Nevertheless, there is a lot to gain in cocoa farming in Nigeria. This is because it has a very huge market as serves as a raw material in many products. Cocoa is one of the hottest agricultural products in the world market. Chocolate won’t be on the shelves at stores without cocoa seeds. Furthermore, many confectionery and beverage making firms will shut down or go out of business if cocoa farmers stop farming.
Here’s one good thing- cocoa trees are planted once and you can harvest it throughout your lifetime and still pass it to your children and grand-children. You only need to plant it once and that’s all. All you have to do thereafter is take care of your cocoa plantation, and make some cool cash.
So, you’re wondering – how can I partake of this burgeoning business? How can I start a coca farm in Nigeria?
Locate Your Cocoa Farm
The first thing you need to do when you want to be a cocoa farmer is to select where you want to setup your plantation.
You need to choose somewhere with the appropriate climate conditions- a good steady rainfall supply and a consistent temperature of between 21 to 32 degrees Celsius all year round.
If you’re planning to create a cocoa farm in Kano, Kaduna or Abuja, you’ll fail. Cocoa farms only survive in states like Ondo, Ogun, Rivers, Cross River, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Imo, and other states without too much rain or sunshine.
This goes without saying. You need to locate a large expanse of land on which to setup your cocoa plantation.
Cocoa trees need a deep, slightly acidic, moist soil to flourish. The soil should also contain coarse particles and have a depth of around 1.5 metres. This is so the plants can develop a good root system.
Choose The Variety of Cocoa you Want to Plant
Before 1950, only two types of cocoa were planted in Nigeria – Amelonado and Trinitario varieties. However there are more varieties nowadays, each with its own pros and cons.
This variety is regarded as one of the finest and luxurious breed of cocoa. It was very popular in the 18th century but nowadays only a handful of pure Criollo trees remain and Nigeria has a small share.
The seed is mildly acidic and almost never bitter. It also has a mild cocoa taste with striking secondary tastes of fruits, tobacco and nuts. It is however susceptible to pests and fungal diseases than other varieties. It also has smaller yields when compared to the others. To top things off, it is the most expensive cocoa breed.
This is the most popular cocoa breed at the moment and accounts for more than 80 percent of global cocoa cultivation. It is considered as the forefather of all cocoa varieties and delivers very good harvests. It isn’t as aromatic as Criollo and usually tastes bitter and/or acidic. It has a hard and rough back and is the dominant breed planted in Nigeria.
There are many subspecies of Forastero: Amelonado, Cundeamor and Calabacillo, to name a few. But Amelonado cocoa is the most extensively planted cocoa of all.
This breed was gotten by crossing the Criollos and Forasteros breeds. It combines the robustness of the Forastero with the powerful aromatic cocoa taste of the Criollo.
So, choose the variety of cocoa you intend to plant.
Plant at the Right Time
You have to plant your cocoa at the right time.
Cocoa nursery is usually done between the months of October and January, while field transplanting is done between April and June.
After planting, the seeds usually yield their first crop between three and five years. However, some cocoa hybrid varieties can yield crops within two and three years.
Breed Your Cocoa
This is the cocoa planting process. It is the journey from stalk to tree.
Actually, there are different ways to breed a cocoa tree. The most commonly used method is seeding.
This is the planting of cocoa trees from the seeds.
Cocoa beans are taken from their pods within 15 days after they have been harvested and planted. Soil and climatic conditions required have to be adhered to. The seeds will then germinate and produce good plants.
This type of breeding isn’t common. Here, a bud is cut from a matured preferred tree and placed under a flap of
bark of another tree.
This bud is bound with raffia and waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent loss of moisture. When the bud begins to grow, the old tree above it can be cut off and discarded. Then you have your cocoa tree.
In this method, the farmer takes cocoa tree cuttings with an average of three and four leaves and one or two buds.
He then cuts the leaves in half and places the cutting in a pot under polythene until roots begin to grow.
When the plants start growing, he transplants it to the farm.
In this method, the farmer takes away a strip of bark from a branch. He then covers the area with sawdust and a polythene sheet.
After some time, this area will grow roots. When this happens, the branch can then be chopped off and replanted in the farm.
Take Good Care of Your cocoa trees
After planting, all you need is to take care of your plantation.
Cocoa farming needs a constant watching out for diseases and rodents/pests. You have to constantly take protective and preventive measures to ensure your plants survive.
Cocoa farming has more pros than cons. However, it rests on your to make a success of your farm. You must be ready to go the distance, put in hard work, and educate yourself on best practices to run this farm successfully.