Cocoa is a cash crop that is constantly on an increasing demand globally. It is the second largest foreign exchange earner after crude oil. Nigeria used to be the largest exporters of cocoa in Africa and the world at large far back in the 60’s and 80’s. Oil boom sets in and we pushed Agriculture especially cocoa farming to the background while making room for Cote-d’Ivoire to take over as the major cocoa producers in the globe followed by Indonesia and Ghana.
Over 90% of cocoa produced in Nigeria is exported. Cocoa farming is under utilized and also an under exploited sector. Yet demand keeps increasing that is why entrepreneurs and investors should take this privileged opportunity and invest heavily in this area.
Planting cocoa tree is like cultivating a minting company. It is an asset that will outlive any one. But setting it up is capital-intensive so before you start it will be better you count the cost in other not to hit yourself on the leg, carry out a feasibility report which should be followed by a business plan.
Breaking even in cocoa farming within 3-5 years may not be realizable, considering the operating cost within the space used.
However, to achieve this you have to intercrop cocoa with fast-moving crops that have short live span and can be harvested within a year. It should be running for those years until canopy sets in. When the intercropped produce is sold will make up for the expenses on the cocoa farm.
This post has a step by step guide on how to do cocoa farming successfully.
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Getting a leased farm is not advisable since it is a long time earning. Purchase a cheap farmland in the village and get everything documented and secured. The soil should be slightly acidic and moist with 5.0-7.0 P.H. Clear the land, remove debris and create pathways. Enrich the soil with organic matters if there is need for that; the land should be sandy loam.
Planting of cocoa can be done in 4 ways; nursery, budding, cutting and marcotting.
Nursery starts from October-January. Transplanting of cocoa seedlings is done between April-June, when they are 5-6 months old and the rains are regular .
Replanting or replacing of dead seedlings can be done during the 2nd /3rd raining season. Plant seedlings on row for easy movement and operations. 3m (10ft) apart and between rows. The standard spacing of cocoa is 3mx3m.
Budding: this is done by cutting a bud from matured tree and placed under a flap of the bark of another tree. Raffia and wax tapes of transparent plastics are then used to prevent moisture loss. When the bud starts growing the old tree is carefully cut off.
Cutting: in this process the cocoa trees are cut off with about 3-4 leaves and 1-2 buds. The leaves are cut into two equal half and placed inside a pot; until roots starts growing you then transfer them to the main field.
Marcotting: strip of bark is cut from a branch; the area is covered with sawdust and a polythene paper. After some days the root will start growing out from this area. You will then chop the branch off and plant them in the main field.
Cocoa can be intercropped with other crops such as cassava, plantain or any crop that can be harvested within a year. If you are planting plantain or banana trees you will need 8000 suckers for 10 hectares.
Nursery may be difficult for you so buy from already established farmers or agencies such as IITA. Hybrid open pollinated seedling goes for #150, hybrid hand pollinated #200 and budded #500.
FACTORS THAT CAN AFFECT SEEDLINGS
- An average of 10-20% of seedlings may die due to factors such as;
- Bad batches of soil
- Viability etc.
- You have to keep replacing the dead seedlings until you have a matured farm.
There is a time difference between fruiting of cocoa and harvesting of the pods. The early maturing variety doesn’t start fruiting in 18 months. It will only bring out flowers and then shed the flowers reason been that the stem is not strong enough to carry about 50 pods of cocoa at that particular time. By the 3rd year when the starts fruiting the number of pods will be less but will keep increasing every passing year.
WEEDING IN COCOA FARMING
Weeding should be done earlier before applying fertilizer. Cocoa farm can be mostly affected by weeds resulting in poor growth and yield.
Spray all pods against black pod disease with suitable fungicides at the beginning of raining season. Use protective gadgets when spraying the chemicals in the farm such as boots, nose masks, goggles etc. Weeds harbours insects, rodents, pest and diseases. Don’t allow weeds anywhere in your farm.
Remove diseased/dead branches from the cocoa trees. Cut off churpons and unwanted vegetative growth (mistletoe and fern) early for trees to form canopy 2.5-3m above ground level. Pluck and remove all pods that are affected by diseases from cocoa plantation on a regular basis.
PRUNING IN COCOA FARMING
Pruning is necessary but be sure to do it well so as not to inflict injury on the tree. It should be done the same way it is done in cashew farming, hibiscus farming and in moringa farming. If you want to learn moringa farming click here
HARVESTING IN COCOA FARMING
Don’t let the pods overripe before harvesting. Just make sure you harvest ripe and mature seeds on time.
Don’t use your hands to pluck off the pods as it can create wounds on the tree. When you delay to break the harvested pod for fermentation it will result in the bean germinating and producing poor quality.
There are two harvesting seasons in a year; light and heavy harvest. Use hard objects to break the pods or hit them against each other. Remove the bean and put them in a clean bowl. Use the traditional basket of heat fermentation methods for 5-6 days. Sun dry them immediately fermentation has completed. Harvesting can continue for more than 50 years.
DRYING OF COCOA
Don’t dry in metallic or iron surface to avoid rust entering. Another reason is to prevent discolouration and loss of flavour. Make sure you select dirt and unwanted debris out from the harvested cocoa before drying. Stay away from containers or bags that has already been used for any other foodstuff so as to avoid contamination.
Place them on a pelletted wood inside jute bags. Don’t put the jute bags on bare floor or close to the wall so that cold would not form mould on them.
The target markets are food and beverage companies, soap making industries, chocolate producing companies etc. A ton of cocoa seeds is sold between 2195-3130USD in International market. Locally cocoa has a standard price of 50kg selling for #55,000.
COST OF SETTING UP 10 HECTARE
This is just an estimate, the cost of setting up cocoa farm varies from location to location.
Land clearing #150,000
- Digging #50 per hole. 12,000 × 50=#60,000
- An hectare of land will consume 12,000 seedlings
- Planting #80,000
Cost of seedling #200 per one × 12000=#240,000
- Weeding 100k for each × 3 times weeding = #300,000
- Pesticide #4000, you will need 10 bottles
Unlike before when we had only two kinds of cocoa varieties cultivated in Nigeria; the Amelonado and Trinitario today so many hybrid varieties are now available. Which produces very fast and are resistant to pest and diseases.
FORASTERO: this is the most popular variety, it is planted globally on an average of 80% and above. They have acidic and bitter taste, strong flavour but can’t be compared to that of Criollo. Their bark is rough and hard. Forastero harvest output is always bountiful.
This is the most common specie that is planted in Nigeria due to the listed characteristics.
Amelonado, Calabacilla, Cundeamor etc are Faraster’s sub-species. Of the tree Amelonado is largely planted.
CRIOLLO: it has milk acidic taste but can’t be compared with that of farostero. Their yield is low when compared to forastero. They are more venerable to pests and diseases than other varieties yet more costly than any other variety.
TINITARIO: it is a hybrid seedling derived from the combination of both criollo and forasteros varieties. The plant takes the characteristics of each of the varieties to produce an abundance of cocoa with great aromatic taste.
COCOA PRODUCING STATES IN NIGERIA
The states to buy cocoa from who are the major producers of cocoa in Nigeria are; Ondo, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Ogun, Cross River, Delta, Osun, Edo.
In conclusion, cocoa farming business is a lifetime investment that will keep you financially bouyant.
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