Loom Craft Chocolate, CFAN Train Ondo Cocoa Farmers on Post-harvest Processing Practices

By: Promise Adagba

As part of efforts to support the federal government’s quest to diversify its revenue, Loom Craft Chocolate in collaboration with the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN) on tuesday flagged-off a special training on post-harvest processing practices for the smallholder cocoa farmers in Ondo state.

The Chief Executive Officer, Loom Craft Chocolate, Mrs Uzomaka Igweike while flagging off the training at Ibuji, in Ifedore Local Government Area of Ondo State, said one of the challenges that have impeded the success of Nigeria’s cocoa export at the international market is poor post-harvest processing practices by cocoa farmers, hence the need for the training.

Loom Craft Chocolate is an Abuja based firm, which basically transforms Nigeria Cocoa into chocolate bars, spread and other cocoa product.

According to Igweike, Cocoa producers have not been able to meet the target set by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), due to its challenges and Nigeria has been struggling to meet its target and as a result, the country losses over $1 billion per year.

Igweike said “When you are making chocolate powder, flavour is essential, it is the biggest determinant for good flavour for chocolate bars how it is being processed in the farm, it start with the dry cocoa seeds, but there is lot of processing from the farm when the Cocoa pod has been harvested, if the Cocoa pods are being processed properly then all the flavors that make it looks good would be looped right at That point.

“We could tell the difference between quality cocoa, flavourful Cocoa and Cocoa that was not processed properly.

“The basic process started from the fermentation and the drying, we realized that most of the farmers were not giving us good cocoa, further investigation said they were not processed at all; the fermentation and drying were not done, even when they do it, it’s not adequate, they did not spend as much time they should, everyone is at rush to dry and sell so that they can get their revenue which is understandable.

“What we are trying to do with this training is to reeducate the farmers we are working with, our Farmers in general.

“The Cocoa bean is a semi processed raw material, it is not a primary material, because of that fermentation they do, when you put in the effort you get flavourful to command the presence in the market, they command higher prices and we in turn get quality bean that we need to produce excellent chocolate, we want a relationship where we invest in the farmers so that they can produce good cocoa.

“For this particular event, we have two different sections and the target is 50 cocoa farmers, we are hoping that we are going to expand this within Ondo State and beyond, that is one of the reasons we have to partner with CFAN, they already have the structure, we do not have to be looking for anyone, they already know where the famers are.

“For us it not just about the multitude, but the value being added, we have to inform them about the tools needed, like fermentation box, in some instance we have to provide solar-powered system, when you do the training and you do not provide tools, it might be a wasted effort, we are all about the quality, being here physically it tells me that it goes beyond technicality, we have to do more of training for the farmers, it likes a moving target, beyond the numbers we want quality.

“We need the government in providing subsidised farm inputs, subsidized cocoa seedlings, many people are interested in Cocoa farming, many are passionate about it, but the things embedded are costly,” she said.

On his part, the National President of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Comrade Adeola Adegoke who said 50 beneficiaries were randomly selected across the two local government areas of Idanre and Ifedore local government areas of Ondo State.

According to Adegoke, the essence of the training was to make Nigeria cocoa beyond local acceptance, ensure cocoa sustainably, and increase income and livelihood.

His words, “We are training them on good post-harvest Practices that gives the right flavour so that our cocoa can be a sought after at the International market.

“We selected two communities from two local governments and we’ve taken into cognisance the importance of the contributions of these communities and LGAs to cocoa economy of Ondo State. The two LGAs are Ifedore and Idanre and the particular communities are Ibuji and Ofosu respectively because this communities are populated by cocoa farmers.

“The Programme targets 50 farmers with 25 beneficiaries from each community. Those you are seeing here in Ibuji will undergo the training for 14 days with practical from harvesting, breaking of pods, fermentation and sun-drying. I believe that this training will be a game changer because a lot of stepdowns, opportunities, will come after the training.

The CFAN President said Cocoa was a major agricultural export crop and a top foreign exchange earner in the 1950s and 60s and prior to the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities in the 1970s, Nigeria was the world’s second largest producer of cocoa.

“Nigeria was second in the 60s before the advent of Crude Oil. But today, we are 5th with about 350,000 metric tonnes where Ivory Coast  produces about 2million metric tonnes and Ghana with about 800,000 metric tonnes. Then, Nigeria was adjudge the best in West Africa in terms of having the best cocoa flavour and aroma with the way our farmers followed the post-harvest Practices. It showed that our farmers had very good quality practices which made many European countries come around to buy our cocoa ahead of other countries but today, the reverse has been the case.

“People are complaining at the International market that Nigeria has lots of issues in terms of Cocoa being exported and in terms of the right flavour not being found when it comes to chocolate manufacturing through cocoa bought from Nigeria. So, that is the more reason we believe that we must be back to basics to make sure that our farmers start to do the right thing that is internationally acceptable and that gives the right flavour and command.

“One of those things that we’ve seen is that Nigeria farmers have been deprived, they are the most vulnerable in the Cocoa supply chain and we are agitating and pressurising that there must be right protection in terms of living income for our farmers so than they can have a better life because most of their children can’t go to school because schools are not available virtually in most of these communities and if they are available, do we have the right teachers? And most of these communities are not motorable, no portable water, no healthcare system among others and these are some of the things we believe that our farmers need”, he stressed.

He called on government at all levels to support farmers across the country to ensure food security.

“Inflation have actually affected all facet of life and we know that government is doing it’s best and this has been a very big issue for everybody and I think that government must further do something to control the inflation. As an association, we are seriously battling with this challenge because when you have cost of imput vis-a-vis the output, it becomes a serious issue especially, when you are talking about farming as a business and Cocoa as a business.

“However, the only saving grace is the growing cost of cocoa price at the International level. If not, I don’t think cocoa farmers would be able to survive.

“But I still believe that we can’t continue with this inflationary tendencies in the sector which can continue to have negative impact on the profit of our farmers which could hinder them from expansion. That is why government needs to act fast. Government must continue to subsidize agriculture.

“I think government should stop rhetorics and there should be national emergency as far as food security is concern because we can no longer buy farm input at the right time and apply it at the right time and the impact has been negative”, he added.

The Traditional ruler, Onibuji of Ibuji Community, Oba Folagbade Ojo, who spoke on behalf of the farmers, appreciated Loom Craft Chocolate and CFAN for the training, saying it will go a long way improving their post-harvest processing practices.

The monarch said, “This program is going to bring a very good impact, it has come to sensitize my people on how to produce the best cocoa.

“I want my people to put it to practice, and when the result is coming out I solicit for help from the government for my people, they need lots of assistance in this cocoa farming because it involves lots of money because, sometimes, they borrow money from the buyers and at the end of the day when the Cocoa would come out they would have little or nothing because they have collected their money upfront,” Oba Ojo added.

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