Nigeria’s Cocoa Crop Shows High Mold Levels

(Bloomberg) -- Initial harvests of Nigeria’s main-crop cocoa arriving at ports and warehouses show high levels of mold in the major producing southwest region due to a prolonged wet season, according to commodities inspection agents and buyers.

Cocoa beans inspected in a sample of warehouses in the region are showing mold in the range of 18 percent to 24 percent, compared with a maximum of 4 percent required by the International Cocoa Organization, Remi Adebayo, managing director of Lagos-based D. Clay Inspection Ltd., said by phone on Monday. Between 500 metric tons and 750 tons of cocoa are coming weekly into Lagos, where the main ports are located, he said.

Beans from the southeast show lower mold levels of between 9 percent and 12 percent, according to Adebayo.

Persistent rains since July in the country’s southern cocoa-growing belt, apart from fostering mold in the beans due to inadequate sunshine to dry them, also encouraged the rapid spread of the fungal black pod disease that causes pods to shrink and trees to wither. Many farms were also washed away by floods.

Insufficient Sunshine

“We kept the harvested beans under storage without the heat that good fermentation requires and the sunshine for proper drying,” Mershack Ojetola, a licensed buying agent, said by phone from the southwestern town of Modakeke, explaining why his beans recorded a high rate of mold.

Nigeria currently ranks joint fifth with neighboring Cameroon among the world’s biggest cocoa producers, with the International Cocoa Organization estimating its 2017-18 output at 240,000 tons. The local cocoa association estimates that production will be little changed in the 2018-19 season due to start in October.

The West African country has two cocoa seasons comprising the smaller midcrop running from April to June, and the main crop from October to December, which accounts for about 70 percent of output. Cocoa was down 0.1 percent at $2,233 per ton as of 1:58 p.m. in London for Dec. 18 deliveries.

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