The fears raised last week about a possible outbreak of Black Pod disease have been realised, after several cocoa-growing regions in Côte d’Ivoire, have cited cases of the fungal disease.
The outbreak has happened as farmers are getting their product ready for market.
Between April and mid-November, the country experiences a wet season, where rainfall can be extreme. This is not intrinsically bad, as the cocoa tree requires a mix of rain and sunshine, but too much dampness can create an environment where the Black Pod fungus prospers. Unfortunately, despite scientific breakthroughs to attack and restrain the fungus, it is usually able to spread quickly.
The bad news just compounds the earlier story that the regulator released the season’s farmgate price at a level that was lower than hoped. Now the farmers face not only lower prices but a product that might not be saleable at all if infected with the fungus.
Some areas have experienced rainfall that is almost double the normal level, and while it may be in vogue to blame bad weather on climate change, several studies have shown that precipitation levels in parts of Africa have been severely affected by deforestation.
If the country’s politicians truly want to see a future in their agricultural sector, more long-term thinking needs to be applied, including more serious attempts to curb deforestation.