Long before the oil craze, cocoa production and exportation was one of the country’s sources of revenue generation. It is interesting to note that Nigerian economy as at then was financially stable than what we have now, and there are renewed efforts to boost cocoa production in Nigeria.
Popularly known as the wealth seed, cocoa production during the time of our forefathers made Nigeria unarguably the largest exporter of cocoa in Africa and one of the top exporters in the world. When exploration of oil began, cocoa production alongside other cash crop production became irrelevant.
No wonder Nigeria lost its international market to countries like Cote D’Ivoire and Indonesia. However, farmers and entrepreneurs are beginning to realize that the world still needs an increase in cocoa production.
Want to start cocoa production in Nigeria? You have come to the right place. This article will take you through necessary steps in ensuring a successful production in Nigeria.
Step 1: Locate a Large Expanse of Land
Cocoa seedlings are extremely sensitive and can wither quickly if not handled with care. Hence, before venturing into cocoa production in Nigeria, you need to secure a large expanse of land with favorable climate and suitable rainfalls. The intended land must be located in a rain forest zone.
The cocoa trees require even temperatures measured to be between 21-32 degrees Celsius, with a moderate constant rainfall of 1000-2500mm annually. Before planting, ensure you clear the land and get good cocoa varieties from a reliable source.
You can get the seedlings from International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) or from experienced cocoa farmers. The best period for planting is between April and May when the rainfall is just beginning.
Step 2: Climate Conditions for Cocoa Production
Cocoa production can only be successful when done under best climatic conditions. Cocoa trees do not need much sun and as said before, cocoa trees prefer the rain forest areas. This means if you reside in the Northern part of Nigeria and intend to start cocoa production, I will assume you are joking.
Cocoa production flourishes well in Eastern, Southern and Western parts of Nigeria like Osun, Ogun, Imo, Cross River, etc.
Since you most likely intend to produce cocoa on a commercial scale, it is important to know that cocoa trees should be planted under the shade of crops like mango, orange, coconut, rubber, banana and rubber trees. This will ensure that the sun doesn’t shine directly on the cocoa pods.
Step 3: Soil Type
Cocoa plants need a soil that contains coarse particles which must be deep, slightly acidic and moist. The deepness of the soil should be around 1.5 meters to aid the growth of a good root system. The soil must be well drained.
This is because cocoa can withstand water logging for a short time; however, in the long run, it can be very detrimental. Cocoa trees are sensitive to water scarcity; hence, the soil must have good drainage and water retention properties.
Cocoa can grow well in soils with a pH in the range of 5.0-7.5. This means it can flourish in acidic and alkaline soils. However, excessive acidity (pH 4.0 and below) or alkalinity (pH 8.0 or below) should be avoided. Also, the soil should rich in organic matter; say at least 3.5% in the first 15cm of the soil.
Step 4: Purchase of Necessary Equipments/Items
To begin cocoa production in Nigeria, you must also ensure you have storage and drying space. Most Nigerian cocoa farmers have warehouses where they store their cocoa seeds properly. These stores must have a fair amount of space outdoors to spread and dry the seeds.
Before you can use the seeds, you need to dry them in the sun, and this process usually takes two weeks. Other necessary equipments to purchase include: water-proof material for drying the seeds outdoors, weighing scales and heavy duty and normal-sized sacks.
Step 5: Cocoa Varieties
Before 1950, the two main cocoa varieties that dominated the Nigerian market were: the Amelonado cacao and the Trinitario varieties. However, there are several varieties in the market today. They are:
The Crillio: This is reputed to be the finest and luxurious of cocoas. This variety dominated the global market in the 18th century. However, only a few of this specie remains.
Mildly acidic and hardly bitter, the Crillio variety has a mild cocoa taste with an impressive secondary taste of fruits, tobacco and nuts. Because the breed is very vulnerable to fungal disease and pests, it produces smaller yields; hence, making it very expensive.
The Forastero: This breed is referred to as the forefather of all cocoa varieties. The Forastero is characterized with features such as: less aromatic flavor unlike the Crillio, bitterness and acidity.
The back looks hard and feels rough, and can easily be purchased in Nigeria, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana.
The Trinitario: This variety is derived from crossing the Crillios and Forasteros. The fusion of both species makes it have an exquisite aromatic taste and a hard back.
Step 6: Cocoa Breeding Methods
There are various methods to breed a cocoa tree. The most popular method is seeding.
Seeding: Cocoa tree is raised from trees. Beans are taken from pods not more than 15 days under ripe and then planted according to the stipulated soil and climatic conditions.
Budding: A bud is cut from a matured tree and placed to lie beneath the flap of bark of another tree. The budding patch is bound with raffia and waxed tape of clear plastic to prevent loss of moisture. When the bud starts to grow, the old tree above it can be cut off and disposed.
Cutting: Here, the farmer takes tree cuttings between two to five leaves and one or two buds. Then, the leaves are cut in half and the cutting is placed in a pot under polythene until the roots begin to grow.
Marcotting: With marcotting, the strip of a bark is extracted from a branch and the area is covered with sawdust and a polythene sheet. Thereafter, the area will produce roots and the branch is cut off. The chopped branch can be replanted in the farm.
Step 7: Cocoa Planting and Maturity
Cocoa nursery takes place between October and January, while field transplanting is done between April and June. After planting the seeds, the first yield occurs between three to five years. However, with cocoa hybrid varieties, you can expect to see yield within two to three years.
Still interested in cocoa production in Nigeria? Go for it!