BLOMBERG 

Nigeria’s 2019-20 cocoa crop is threatened by an attack of the fungal black-pod disease due to the wetness created by persistent rains in the main cocoa-growing areas, the industry association said.

“The losses could escalate if the rains continue far into July in its current intensity,” Sayina Riman, president of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, which groups farmers, traders and processors of the chocolate ingredient, said in a phone interview.

The disease makes pods shrivel and trees wither, and has been reported in most farms in the southeastern cocoa belt around the cocoa-trading center, Ikom, he said. This region accounts for about 30% of Nigeria’s cocoa, with the rest coming from the southwest, the main growing area, with Akure as its main trading hub.

“The rains have been relentless and farmers are helpless,” Sola Akingbade, a cocoa farmer southwestern Ogun state, said by phone. Many farms in the area are infested with the black pod, he said.

Nigeria is the world’s fifth-biggest producer of cocoa with output estimated at 245,000 tons for the 2018-19 season by the International Cocoa Organization. The country’s cocoa season comprises the main crop harvested from October to March and the smaller midcrop that runs from April to June.

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