FLOODS predicted to sweep across most of Nigeria this year may imperil cocoa crop while boosting its rice output, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) has said.
At least 32 of the country’s 36 states, including those that span the southern cocoa belt, are likely to experience flooding during the current wet season due to irregular rainfall patterns, NiMet said in its weather outlook for the year.
“When you have serious cases of flooding, the tree crops will be forced to accommodate more water than they can absorb,” Sani Mashi, Director-General of NiMet said in an interview in Abuja, on Thursday.
“Unlike a cereal crop like rice that can be submerged, cocoa will be seriously hampered,” he added.
Wet conditions such as those created by flooding engender fungal diseases, such as black pod, that reduce both cocoa output and quality.
Nigeria ranks seventh among the world’s cocoa producers, with 2015-16 output estimated at 190,000 metric tonnes by the International Cocoa Organisation.
With the rains approaching their peak, many cocoa farmers said they lacked the means to acquire the chemical sprays to fight the fungal diseases that come with the wet season.
On the contrary, rice farmers in some flood-prone areas of Jigawa State welcomed the excess water, draining it into ditches to irrigate their crops, including tomatoes, peppers, sorghum and corn, according to Habibu Musa of the All Farmers Association of Nigeria, who spoke by phone from Kiyawa town.
“We have benefited from the flooding here, our rice is growing faster,” he said.