Aging trees will cause a drop in cocoa output in Nigeria, the world’s fourth-biggest producer of the chocolate ingredient, a researcher said.
The age of the trees has created a “wide yield gap,” Chris Okafor, of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, said by phone from Akure in southwestern Nigeria.
Nigerian farmers are reluctant to replace aging trees because it can take 10 years for soils to recover sufficiently to be able to support new plantings, David Onyenweaku, an 84- year-old farmer, said by phone today from Umuahia in southeastern Nigeria.
“I started planting cocoa in the 1950s and some of the trees I planted then are still standing,” Onyenweaku said. The trees are still producing beans, “but not much,” he said.
The farmers have to wait so long before replanting their land because of “poor soil nutrient management,” said Okafor, who manages the Nigerian sustainable tree crops program at the institute in Ibadan, southwestern Nigeria. Soil is seriously depleted and farmers aren’t using fertilizers, “which tells on the yield,” he said.