Drop in prices coupled with the socio-political crisis are making things worse for producers.
Of the 46.000 tons of cocoa produced annually in the South West Region, Meme Division ranks primordial as a producing basin. Cameroon Business Today visited Esapa Patrick’s farm in Kombone some 25 kilometres from Kumba (Meme Divisional headquarters) recently. His half a ton of cocoa produced annually kept him and his average-sized family comfortable until the current drop in prices came to aggravate what the Anglophone crisis had started spoiling. Their harvest period between July and December augurs a negative season this time around. Not only have prices dropped from FCFA 1,500 per kilogramme to FCFA 1,010 but they are not sure of when to get on their farms again with gun battles fought regularly in the area. His 20-year old farm is now without the usual care that ought to involve pruning, spraying and clearing. According to Esapa Patrick, President of South West Farmer’s Cooperative Union, a majority of cocoa farmers in Meme Division in particular and South West in general are still living in poverty. This is also because there is a lot of deforestation and today it is coupled with price drop in the cocoa sector. With the price drop to FCFA 1,010 the farmers will not be able to pay their workers, buy chemicals and transport their produce to the market. Now with the crisis, buyers like cooperative and some individuals, find it difficult to get to the farmers because some unknown gunmen and members of the separatist groups have placed an order that all cocoa producers and even buyers will share with them 50 per cent of their sales. This is another disturbing factor on the farmers. These cooperatives used to collect cocoa and market it for the farmers. The cooperatives are affiliated to the only union in the South West known as SOWEFCU. Most cocoa farmers are barely surviving now seeing that with the price drop, they cannot maintain their farms. It is a major problem now for the farmers. Many are trying to drop cocoa and move to the rubber sector while some are struggling to cut down cocoa and plant palms. Many of these challenges are not specifically cocoa based but are part of broader issues affecting rural communities. As such, holistic approaches, including effective governance, must be envisaged and implemented where cocoa can operate as a driver for rural development. Remember that without farmers there is no cocoa. All actors should work to create an enabling environment to professionalize cocoa farming. To survive, we have to put hands on deck to fight against the price drop in the cocoa sector.