A sharp rise in the price paid for cocoa beans has boosted the incomes of farmers in Cameroon as top global producers Ivory Coast and Ghana suffer a supply shortage this season.
Several farmers told Reuters that they have been selling their beans at prices ranging from 2,000 to 2,200 CFA francs ($3.67) per kilogram, up from 750 to 1,290 CFA francs/kilograms last season.
New York cocoa futures rose to a 46-year high on Monday as crop problems in West Africa tightened global supplies. Ghana cocoa port arrivals are down around 50% year-on-year so far this season, while Ivory Coast's are down more than 35%.
Cameroon is not expecting a similar drop in production. It targets around 300,000 metric tonnes of cocoa annually, making it the world's fourth biggest producer in recent years.
"I have made much more money from cocoa sales, which has enabled me to clear an overdue loan," said Susan Itoe, a cocoa farmer near Konye in the South West region.
Cameroon's guaranteed cocoa farmgate price for the 2023/24 season was set at 1,500 CFA francs/kilograms. But the actual prices paid to farmers are flexible depending on the market and have risen even higher.
In Ivory Coast and Ghana, by contrast, prices are fixed for the entire season.
"Cameroon is benefiting from the malaise of Ghana and Ivory Coast following flooding and cocoa swollen shoot virus," said Epie Promise Ngolepie, a cocoa consultant at agri-tech company Help Farmers Cameroon, who told Reuters that prices were expected to fall by 2025 as production picks up again in West Africa.
The high cost of inputs and high cost of transporting the produce due to bad roads were, however, eroding the gains, he added.
"Price has always been our problem... So this increase is well appreciated especially as we have improved the quality of our cocoa," said Esapa Patrick Enyong, president of the South West Farmers' Cooperative Union, which groups thousands of farmers in the country's largest cocoa production basin.
Cameroon was recently added to Annex 'C' of the International Cocoa Agreement, which places it on the list of countries producing fine flavoured cocoa.
The liberalisation of the country's cocoa trade since the 1990s has also contributed to the higher prices, said Michael Ndoping, General Manager of the National Cocoa and Coffee Board (NCCB).
"All these factors put together make the cocoa trade these days very encouraging and we hope this will last for some time," Ndoping said.