Between 2014 and 2018, Cameroon’s palm oil production recorded a notable rise from 343,000 tons to 413,000 tons, the ministry of agriculture reveals.
For the ministry, this production is closer to the target of 450,000 tons by 2020. It indicates that though the target had been underestimated, the positive performance is due to the actions undertaken in that sector. These are notably the implementation of a palm oil and rubber development strategy, the inclusion of the palm oil sector in the value chain development programme and provision of subsidies to producers.
Indeed, on February 14, 2018, the union of palm oil producers Unexpalm signed an agreement with the government for a program to support fertilization of palm gardens in rural areas. Valued at XAF3.6 billion, the 8-year program is a government initiative to provide subsidized fertilizers to producers. Thanks to this initiative, fertilizer prices have been reduced by 25% and a multi-year perpetuation fund has been set.
Between 2014 and 2018, the volume of yearly cocoa production in Cameroon rose from 281,000 tons to 336,000. This is revealed by the ministry of agriculture in the report of the implementation of the rural sector’s development strategy.
According to the ministry, this rise is due to the restoration of old orchards, the increase in crop areas and projects in the framework of the ministry’s coffee-cocoa sectors’ relaunch strategy.
Despite this increase, the ministry writes, “the target of 600,000 tons by 2020 will probably not be met.”
This statement is not much of a surprise. In 2018, the Inter Patronal Groupings of Cameroon published a report on the impact of the Anglophone crisis on national economy. The report reveals that the SouthWest has lost its place as the nation’s leading cocoa producing region. According to the grouping, this region’s cocoa sales dropped from 45.45% to 32% during the 2017-2018 campaign, representing a decrease by 43,000 tons. The monetary loss is estimated at XAF56 billion of export revenues.
For the 2018-2019 campaign, based on the critical security environment, the grouping forecasted between 60,000 tons and 100,000 tons of losses.
XAF1,650; this is how much a kilogram of cocoa beans from excellence centers is bought by French chocolate makers. These excellence centers were built in the country’s production basins in the framework of a partnership between French chocolate makers and the Coffee-cocoa board CICC.
This is far above the maximum of XAF1,060 per kilo (and a minimum of XAF1,020) paid to farmers that do not produce beans that match the quality of those from excellence centers. According to Christophe Bertrand, the French chocolate maker that brought Cameroonian cocoa to his peers’ attention, this price is a result of the label "comitted chocolate makers" launched months ago.
“With this label, French chocolate makers are committed to buying this quality cocoa from Cameroonian farmers’ cooperatives. This year, we are buying it at XAF1,650 per kilogram,” he explains adding that every year, this price can be discussed.
The cocoa beans excellence centers are constructions equipped with specific fermentation and drying equipment. Coupled with a quality assurance scheme, these excellence centers help produce “pure quality” cocoa.
In view of the advantages provided by these centers, the cocoa board plans to build them around the country. In the long term, these centers will be built in the 36 regions to provide access to more than 1,500 young producers from the “New Generation” program.
The “New Generation” program was launched to attract young people into cocoa production. In 7 years, it has helped establish more than 2,500 hectares of new cocoa trees.
Brice R. Mbodiam
Executives from Chinese firm Cic Taihua recently met members of the Cameroonain chamber of agriculture Capef in Yaoundé. According to official sources, this meeting was to identify the agriculture machinery needed by local farmers.
Indeed, the firm plans to build an agriculture machinery assembly plant in the country.
“We don’t plan to manufacture heavy machinery for producers who are majorly small farmers,” one of the executives indicated. He also revealed that his firm was able to adapt to farmers’ specific needs.
According to Cic Taihua, once the plant is built, farmers who want to can purchase agriculture machinery on credit. With the profit made thanks to those machines, they can be able to pay the instalments.
During a visit at Maga, in the Far-North, on June 17, 2019, agriculture minister Gabriel Mbairobe (photo), announced the government’s decision to provide XAF3.3 billion to rice producer Société d’expansion et de modernisation de la riziculture de Yagoua (Semry).
This fund will help Semry acquire equipment such as plough machines and power generators. “In the coming months, not only will the first rice shelling unit in Maga start operations, but we will also upgrade the second unit to increase its hourly paddy rice processing capacity from 5 to 9 tons,” the minister said.
Semry, which only survives thanks to the government’s subsidies, produces an average of 80,000 tons of rice per year. Most of its production is exported to Nigeria. The remaining being unable to meet local demand, Cameroon massively imports rice, affecting its trade balance.
The two main producers of dessert bananas exported a volume of 16,135 tons in May 2019.
According to figures published by Association bananière du Cameroun (Assobacam), PHP, local subsidiary of Compagnie fruitière de Marseille, exported 14,639 tons in May 2019. During the period under review, the second operator, Boh Plantations, exported 1,496 tons.
Compared with the volume of banana desserts exported in April 2019 (13,381tons), this represents an increase by 2,754 tons. On a year to year basis however, this represents a decrease by about 3,000 tons.
Let’s also note that even though the May 2019 performance is better than that of April 2019, it is still below this year’s monthly average which is between 19,000 and 21,000.
It is also worth mentioning that the third producer Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC) has not resumed activities it stopped in 2018, in the wake of separatists claims in the two Anglophone regions.
Brice R. Mbodiam
Cameroon is planning to create between 50 and 100 ha of wheat as of 2020, the minister of agriculture, Gabriel Mbairobé, said during a visit to Adamaoua in May 2019.
As part of the Wheat Development Strategy, Mr. Mbairobé explained, more than 200 wheat plots are currently under experimentation across the national territory, including the town of Wassande, in the Adamaoua region. This locality is home to the ruins of the Wheat Development Company (Sodéblé), a public company that went bankrupt in the late 1980s.
“We have high altitude and low altitude varieties. Under certain research criteria, we have set up these plots and have already selected four varieties,” explains Clémentine Ananga Messina, the Minister Delegate to the Minister of Agriculture.
The launch of these tests with the support of the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IARAD), it is officially reported, aims to prevent an increase in wheat imports. Along with rice and fish, wheat is one of the main imported items in Cameroon. “We import more than XAF150 billion worth of wheat every year in the form of flour and grain, and also finished and semi-finished products such as cakes, cookies and biscuits,” says the Minister Delegate to the Minister of Agriculture.
Over the first three months this year, Cameroon sold 2,260 tons of logs to the European Union. According to latest data from the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO), this volume is down 33% compared to the same period in 2018.
A decline is also observed in volumes shipped by other African suppliers to the European market. The Central African Republic shipped 4,730 tons over the period, down 5% year-on-year and DRC also suffered a 5% decline, shipping only 4,100 tons.
The weak log exports, ITTO explained, is linked to lower demand for tropical logs in the main EU markets. France only imported 11,200 tons (-7%) while Belgium purchased 4,360 tons (-4%) and Portugal bought 3,450 tons (-10%).
The maximum average price per kilogram of cocoa in Cameroon's production basins has dropped to XAF1,040 since 4 June, compared to XAF1,060 a week earlier. The lowest price fell to XAF1,010, compared to XAF1,030.
Two months ago, the maximum price was XAF1,200 close to the XAF1,500 reached three years ago. The decline in the beans prices is, according to sector players, the consequence of the rainy season. They say the wet season makes it difficult to access production areas, increasing transport costs and consequently reducing the prices offered to producers.
The Cameroonian government is launching in the coming months a program to label beers and soft drinks. This consists of affixing a sticker to each drink bottle.
Sources said the program should extend to cigarettes and drugs, which are among the products most exposed to smuggling. In a letter sent in early May 2019 to brewing companies, the Ministry of Finance announced the government's decision to continue this program, despite producers’ opposition.
The reform is expected to increase tax revenues by ensuring traceability and control of products most exposed to illegal trade. It will also make it possible to provide brewers with solutions that enable them to protect and authenticate their production.
Despite these advantages evoked by the government, brewers are reluctant. “Aware of the challenges of food safety and public health, Cameroonian brewing companies have set themselves quality and control standards in terms of food safety, which have forced them in recent years to acquire an automated control and traceability system based on advanced technology,” explained an executive of a brewing company.
The latter said the government decision means that brewers will have to “abandon the marking and traceability system on which each of them invested colossal resources a few years ago.” Decision also requires “modifying the layout of the acquired production lines in order to integrate the specifications of the equipment of the service provider (hired by the government), to bear the losses inherent in the installation and test phases, or to bear the costs of adapting and training personnel in the use and mastery of these new technologies.”
In the face of that scenario, explained a source close to the matter, brewers will “transfer these additional operating costs to the final consumer.” In other words, the beer labeling program will lead to further price hike, after that in March 2019 decided due to the impact of the 2019 Finance Act on the brewing activity.
The implementation of the program is entrusted to a certain Sicpa, a Swiss company, which already holds similar contracts in Kenya and Morocco. In these two countries, contracts awarded to Sicpa for the labeling of liquors, tobacco, water and sweetened drinks are highly contested.
In 2016, the Kenyan politician Raila Odinga, former Minister of Finance and several times presidential candidate, openly denounced the “dubious conditions” under which the contract was granted. The company had also been accused by this politician of illegally collecting taxes; accusations that Sicpa rejected en bloc.
In Morocco, doubts are raised on the prices applied by the Swiss company. Before the renewal (in 2014) of its contract signed since 2010, and which now extends until 2020, Sicpa sold a sticker on cigarettes 15 times more expensive in Morocco than in Canada or Turkey. In addition, the Moroccan tax authorities have imposed a huge annual fee on producers in the focus sectors in order to remunerate the service provider. Brewers in Cameroon fear the same would be applied to them.
According to a study by Oxford Economics on the economic impact of such labeling process in countries such as Brazil, Canada, Malaysia, Kenya and Malta, the practice is not very effective in combating the consumption of contraband products. According to the study, while this method has often contributed to boosting tax revenues, the persistence of smuggled products on the market reduces its effectiveness.
Brice R. Mbodiam