Cocoa Beans

CAMEROON NEW DRYING MACHINES TO TURN AROUND QUALITY CONCERNS

Fifty-five new cocoa drying machines are due to be installed across cocoa production areas in Cameroon to boost the quality of the country’s key crop.

Cameroon is Africa’s third-largest cocoa producer, after Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, with cocoa making up 15% of their export revenue in 2019.

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Despite the value of this commodity to the country, Cameroon frequently sees its cocoa sold at discount prices, due to its perceived lower quality. An instance in 2013 saw a staggering 2,000 tonnes of Cameroonian cocoa returned from European ports, due to a smoky aroma. The result was a loss of over US$500k for the exporter.

That issue was traced to the drying process used by producers in Cameroon, which can be rudimentary compared to modern practices. Cameroonian farmers typically harvest their crop in the rainy season, and if they are unable to dry them in the sun, may use fire to assist in the drying process prior to export.

Cocoa beans contain high-fat levels, which naturally absorb elements from the surrounding environment. Therefore, by drying beans using a dryer placed over a fire, the cocoa produced is likely to be tainted with an undesirable smoky aroma, and have inadequate humidity levels.

This undesirable aroma associated with Cameroonian cocoa has led to reduced prices. For example, in 2017, a $0.35 per kilo discount was reportedly applied to cocoa beans from Cameroon for this reason.

Another method of drying the beans that some farmers practice, is to leave them out to dry on the bare pavement. However, this is problematic, as it can occasionally lead to contamination with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a toxin that the European Union has banned since early 2013.

As a solution to Cameroon’s cocoa drying challenge, 55 modern drying machines are being installed in South-West Cameroon, a prime cocoa production region of the country.

The Agricultural Infrastructure and Value Chain Development Project, issued a call to service providers interested in joining the project, which aims to improve the quality of the cocoa sold in this region.

The project coordinator, Besong Ntui Ogork says that the new drying machines will be installed in Meme, Manengouba, Manyu, Fako, Kupe and Ndian. Following the installation of the dryers, cocoa fermenters will also be used to support the new process. The project has until March 17 2022 to submit their applications.

Photo by Fernando Andrade on Unsplash

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