Key Takeaways from Project Trace Launch

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The Project Trace Launch was an intriguing event featuring the participation of government bodies, private businesses, and other organizations, all contributing their perspectives on the imperative of enhancing Nigeria’s Cocoa Sustainability by January 2025

Notable participating bodies included the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and notable international organizations.

What is Trace about?

Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food for Progress Program, TRACE is a five-year project aimed at improving Nigeria’s cocoa productivity through climate-smart agriculture as well as its traceability for stronger marketability. In partnership with the federal and state governments of Nigeria, IITA, CRIN, Ecometrica, and, the Lutheran World Relief implements TRACE in Nigeria’s cocoa-producing states of Abia, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ekiti, Ondo, and Osun States. The initiative is projected to impact over 51,000 smallholder farmers through training, resulting in a doubling of cocoa productivity and establishing a comprehensive (farm-to-export) traceability system that meets global standards. More than 68,400 farmers will gain access to markets, and over 366,000 hectares of farmland will be under improved climate risk reduction and/or natural resource management practices.

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Lessons from Project Trace Launch

The first key discussion centred around the importance of ensuring traceability and prioritizing the social and economic well-being of the farmers. Representatives of the CFAN emphasized that despite being key players in the value chain, several cocoa producers are still struggling at the bottom rungs, with the global prices of cocoa having seemingly zero reflection on their livelihoods.

According to CFAN’s president, Comrade Adeola Adegoke, Nigeria produces more than 350,000 metric tons of cocoa annually, contrary to claims in inaccurate data that suggest the country only produces an average of 280,000 metric tons. Understandably, this lack of reliable data is a significant limiting factor in the sector. Nevertheless, Adeola Adegoke reiterated CFAN’s endeavours to elevate the total output to 500,000 metric tons by the end 

of 2024.

While commenting, Michel Arrion, the Executive Director of ICCO, presented a slightly different perspective, stating that increasing cocoa production would lead to an increase in the total global cocoa supply, which would cause the commodity’s price to drop. As such, it might not be the best approach to improving the value chain. As an alternative, he advocated for the revitalization of aging trees that are yielding lower outputs as a better option for maintaining current supply volumes.

There were also discussions around Nigeria’s potential inclusion in the CIGCI ( Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana Cocoa Initiative). However, the main barrier to this is Nigeria’s liberal, unregulated cocoa market system. The two pioneer countries of the initiative both operate structured cocoa market systems, which have been largely responsible for their impressive results on the global stage. 

In an encouraging turn of discussion, the representative of the Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Food Security highlighted the government’s efforts to reintroduce a Cocoa Management Board similar to the Ghana Cocoa Board. However, the process will be gradual to ensure the involvement of all stakeholders.

Overall, the key lessons from the Project Trace Launch event are summarized in the following points.
  • There is a pressing need to crack down on the use of inorganic pesticides and herbicides in cocoa production. Apart from leaving harmful residues in the soil and on the harvests, these chemicals are also detrimental to pollinators. Given that the cocoa flower cannot self-pollinate, it heavily relies on pollen from another flower or the same tree, making pollinators crucial. Consequently, farmers are encouraged to prioritize the use of organic fertilizers. 
  • The global prices of cocoa, regardless of how high they rise, must directly translate into improved living standards for the farmers. 
  • Nigeria must enhance its data collection methods to facilitate proper documentation and reliable forecasts. 
  • All buyers and participants within the value chain must act responsibly.
  • The global price of cocoa has surged from approximately $2400 to $3600 per ton amid a global reduction in production (5.2 million tons in 2022 compared to 4.9 million tons in 2023). This development confirms the Executive Director of ICCO’s suggestion that there’s a need to control excess production to avoid a potential fall in prices, matching demand with supply. 
  • There’s a need to encourage more players to enter the value chain, particularly in the cocoa grinding sector. 
  • Promoting the local consumption of cocoa is imperative. The conversion of cocoa into multiple value-added products will only be effective if we actively promote its local consumption. 
  • Cocoa trees and farmers are aging – we must make farming attractive enough to draw in new entrants by either going into new plantations or rejuvenating older ones.
  • Nigeria should get into more trade deals with the EU to improve the competitiveness of our products. 
  • National and regional plans/frameworks are vital. If we have a functional framework that meets global standards, then we will be able to fit into other regulatory frameworks, be it EU, US, or Asia.

Overall, the event not only provided useful insights into the current state of the Nigerian cocoa industry and the plans to increase its sustainability by the year 2025, but it also afforded participating stakeholders opportunities to network and connect with other industry leaders. It illuminated the need for more climate-smart agricultural practices and the improvement of cocoa producers’ livelihoods – factors that are crucial to guaranteeing the future of the Nigerian cocoa industry.

Pictures from the event

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