Contrary to the belief that China and Australia’s entry into cocoa production possesses a threat to West African growers, farmers in Africa’s biggest economy are optimistic that the break-in by both countries will be beneficial to them.
Better pricing for cocoa beans and access to cheaper processing machines to spur value addition in Nigeria are big wins the farmers see as the world’s second-largest economy joins the community of cocoa-producing nations.
“China now in the cocoa game is an opportunity for Africa and not a threat,” notes Dokun Thompson, the Oloni of Eti-Oni and chairman of the Eti-Oni Development Group.
“China is known for cheap technology and their entry means the African market will start seeing cheaper machines for grinding the raw beans,” Thompson, who is also the convener of the yearly Eko Chocolate show, states.
He says countries in the West African region still heavily rely on exporting raw beans as local processing, which offers the chance to build up revenues and create employment, is still very low owing to high operating cost of machines. This would soon be a thing of the past with China now in the game, he says.
More than 70 percent of the world’s cocoa beans are used for production by large chocolate producers in North America and Europe to make their sweet goods come from West Africa.
However, millions of smallholder farmers who depend on the crop for their livelihoods often have little or nothing to show for the cultivation of the commodity.
The low income earned by these farmers is a reflection of low international prices, which has forced Ghana and Ivory Coast to create a cartel and placed a minimum market price for their beans.
Cocoa farmers in Nigeria believe the low pricing era of the raw beans will soon be a thing of the past with the recent entrance of China and Australia into the production of the crop.