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May 09, 2010

Nigeria cocoa production set to increase

Cocoa production in southern Nigeria, Africa's third-biggest producer, will increase the crop by about 12 percent this season as new farms extended the harvest, the Cocoa Association of Nigeria said.

"There was no off-season this year because of the new farms," said Neji Abang Neji, the association's general secretary.

Southern Nigeria accounts for about 23 percent of the country's total cocoa production. Trees usually finish producing the key chocolate ingredient by February or March, Neji said in a phone interview while traveling to Ikom, in southern Cross River state. The official season runs until June.

Extending the harvest raises the prospect of having higher, year-round production of cocoa, Nigeria's second-biggest foreign exchange earner after crude, Neji said.

Farmers have asked the West African nation's government to fund irrigation projects, though the requests haven't been granted, he said.

The new farms are located near rivers or wetlands in the area, which receives higher rainfall than the western part of the country, where cocoa is also grown.

Better weather may boost Nigeria's harvest by 7 percent this year to 300,000 metric tons, the association said on March 24.

Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria are the world's top cocoa producers.


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