BACKGROUND OF COCOA/COFFEE SECTOR IN SIERRA LEONE
Cocoa and coffee provide substantial export earnings for Sierra Leone and important family income for many smallholder farmers in south eastern Sierra Leone. During the war, many farmers abandoned their plantations. Since the war ended in 2002, farmers are gradually rehabilitating their plantations. Production has not reached as it was before the war. Cocoa export fell from about 22,000 MT per year before the war (1985-1992) to about 8000, MT per year after the war in 2005. Besides, the current quality of exported cocoa is improving. Farmers are paid fair price for whatever quality they sell to traders and lack the incentive to invest in proper harvesting, fermentation and drying. Sierra Leone cocoa/coffee is sold mostly in the London market for a discount of more than US $ 200 per MT compared to the world market price. The above mentioned current low production and poor quality of cocoa in Sierra Leone indicate also important prospects for Sierra Leone smallholders. Cocoa prices are rising which has encouraged farmers to carry out more out-planting of improved varieties. Cocoa price is expected to continue to rise because of the growing demand. Higher prices at the world market are forwarded to producers through PMB, stimulating investment (rehabilitation, replanting, etc.) on the farm level. Consequently, the action of the Board on marketing of high quality cocoa/coffee (including exports) has helped to sanitize the cocoa/coffee sector. However, coffee prices are low, which has made many farmers to replace their coffee farms into cocoa.
Cocoa/coffee production in Sierra Leone is in low pace because of old plantations, lack of incentives for farmers to do under-brushing, incidence of pest and diseases all resulted in the low level of production, however, the intervention of development partners in empowering small holder farmers in out-planting and rehabilitation, many old plantations have been reverted to young plantations with high potential to increase the yields of cocoa and coffee.
Quality is a criterion for cocoa/coffee trade in Sierra Leone, which is determined by a combination of factors that determine the acceptability of the cocoa/coffee for export. The factors include; Proper fermentation, dried to proper moisture content (level), Free from mould contamination, free from extraneous matters. Cocoa intended for export is examined and graded by produce examiner (Quality officer) at a specified storage facility that meet the conditions for the proper storage of cocoa/coffee beans. The consignment that meets the grade specification of buyer is declared fit for export and a certificate for export is issued as outlined in rule 11 of the Agricultural act Cap 185. In Sierra Leone cocoa grades are of two types; grade one and grade two. However, Sierra Leone still maintain the old methods of grading as “Fair Average Quality (FAQ) as prescribed in the Produce Inspection Rules.
Export volumes of cocoa and coffee are affected by some farmers/dealers that smuggle their produce to the neighboring Guinea or Liberia or export without the knowledge of the Board. However, below is a five year export volume of cocoa and coffee from Sierra Leone recorded by the Board.
COCOA EXPORT FOR FIVE SEASONS
Yearly data of the produce inspection unit.
COFFEE EXPORT FOR FIVE SEASONS
Yearly data of the produce inspection unit (PIU)
SEASON OF PRODUCTION
Sierra Leone cocoa season occur in two form; the early season (which is referred to as first harvest) and the Late Season (which is referred to as the late harvest). This occurs as a result of changes in the rainfall pattern in the production areas as well as the introduction of new improved varieties. Coffee has one season which commences from November and ends in February.
Cocoa/coffee planting is normally done in May/June that is out-planting. But nursery establishment is normally done in January/February in poly bags of required sizes.
Cocoa harvesting starts in May/June for the early cocoa and continues unto December. However, minor harvesting does occur. The peak of harvesting is September to November. Coffee harvesting starts in November and ends in February.
Section 7(2)(a) of the PMB Act requires the Board to “Regulate, Promote & Improve the Marketing of produce in order to optimize the income earnings of farmers” and ensuring that farmers are paid fair prices by periodically announcing indicative prices” for commodities covered by the act (coffee, cocoa, ginger, palm oil, palm kernels and any other exportable agricultural produce deemed fit by the Board. In pursuance of this provision, the Produce Price Review Committee (PPRC) meet at the start of each produce season to determine and announce the indicative producer price (Ensuring that farmers are paid fairly and promptly for their produce).
These are important middlemen in the produce trade. They exist in two forms; Principal-agents and Sub-agents that buy cocoa/coffee beans on behalf of the exporter. The more reliable agents you may have the more your business grow. Sub-agents work under the principal-agent.
These are group of cocoa/coffee producers that come together to provide assistance to one another in production, processing or marketing of their produce. Cooperatives operate as a group with formidable executive structures in order to achieve slated goals. Cocoa/coffee cooperative are found in all production areas. Some cooperatives have included export of their produce in order to maximize more profit for their produce.