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Cocoa : Transformation preoccupies gov’t

Cameroon is among the world’s top growers of the commodity. But its inability over the years to transform has left the country with very little revenue there-from.

Cameroon is the 5th world producer of cocoa after Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia and Nigeria. Cameroon produces 200.000 tonnes of cocoa per season with only 12 per cent of it transformed locally. The rest 82 per cent is exported to Europe, Asia and the Americas where the demand in chocolate firms is very high. As per official sources, only one transformation outfit exists in the country as at now. Cameroonian cocoa is unique in its taste thanks to the fertile volcanic soils on which it is grown. Through its Cameroonian subsidiary Sic Cacao, the Swiss Barry Callebaut transforms about 30.000 tonnes of cocoa annually. It is not clear whether Chococam which is a chocolate manufacturer is not a transformation company. But government’s preoccupation now is to up transformation as much as possible. It is against this backdrop that Agriculture and rural development minister, Essimi Menye has announced government’s plans to increase exportation taxes as means to encourage local transformation. The tax rate has not yet been fixed. But Mr Menye said they would do so as soon as possible so it reaches parliament at the November session for deliberation and why not adoption. It is a challenge according to Essimi Menye “for us to ensure that Cameroon transforms 50 per cent of its cocoa output annually.” And this he added “would generate huge revenues for the state coffers as well as create many more jobs for Cameroonian youths.” To this end, Morocco’s Aiguebelle has announced plans to begin constructing a chocolate production factory in Douala in the days ahead. As per Trade minister, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, the Morocan venture which has been christened Cameroon investment company, Cic would serve clients with its first products end 2012. It would have a production capacity of 40.000 tonnes per yer as per the latter, and would cost between FCFA 30 and 50 billion to build. It is expected to employ at least 500 persons.Transformation of cocoa is not easy, sector stakeholders say. Sic Cacao general manager, Bart Willems says there are a lot of difficulties in the venture. “ In areas like the South west where it rains too much farmers are compelled to dry their cocoa with fire and the result is cocoa that smells smoke. And if cocoa smells, its products too would, thus making this more complicated for us,” said Bart Willems. Like Essimi Menye said above, Willems is of the opinion that taxes be up-ed on direct exportation of the produce. Cocoa according to official figures is the highest exported product after hydrocarbons. It accounts for 25 per cent of Cameroon’s export trade. It is cultivated in the whole of Cameroon apart from the three northern regions. It is grown on an estimated surface area of at least 400.000 hectares. A hectare produces between 300 and 500 kg. With the new varieties that researchers are introducing, experts say output per hectare is likely to jump to about 01 or even 02 tonnes. Over 600.000 producers are involved in the cultivation across the 07 regions.With huge investments currently being made in the energy sector to up supply, transformation would be relatively easier than before. It should be noted that several heavy industries have not been able to operate at full or even half capacity due to power shortage. But with the ongoing construction of hydro electric dams in the country, annual energy output would jump considerably. Memve’ele alone would supply at least 201 mega watts while Lom Pangar and Mekin would add 120 and 15 mega watts respectively.

Benedict Ndinwa

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