Cocoa is the number two export from Nigeria behind crude oil, providing around 6% of the world's cocoa supply. Worldwide demand has grown a steady 3% on average over the last hundred years. But Nigeria is finding itself lagging in a few key ways to its neighboring cocoa producers. Cote d'Ivoire -- which produces nearly half of the world's supply -- has implemented strategies to improve the lives of growers, and to modernize production. Ghana, which is mourning the recent loss of President John Atta Mills, has taken bold steps toward political stability, and key indicators there show democracy is gaining traction.
Nigeria has lagged to some degree in both production, and political stability. This year has been particularly rainy in the cocoa growing regions and farmers are battling an outbreak of black pod disease which can quickly decimate healthy crops. The Nigerian government hopes to improve the lives of farmers by increasing profitability, encouraging environmental and social sustainability on the farm, and to develop higher quality planting materials. In addition, the government of Nigeria is offering to subsidize inputs for cocoa growers, easing costs on the farm.
Black pod may hamper these efforts by costing farmers unexpected resources in the fight against the disease. Nigerian growers need a chance to focus on improving the quality of their cocoa trees and to educate themselves on effectively using fertilizers. The National Cocoa Transformation Initiative has found an ally toward that end in the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), which is providing help to farmers with crop quality, updating infrastructure, and utilizing inputs. Black pod disease could easily slow progress for the IITA and for Nigeria. Farmers who are battling the disease may find their bottom line has no room for updates or inputs, freezing production at the status quo.