Better late than never? Actually never late is better, especially when shipping cocoa.
Oil is the main source of foreign currency earnings for Nigeria. Not wanting to put their eggs in one basket, the country is keen to diversify its export base. Cash crops such as cocoa are a key element of this drive.
Located about 150 km north of Lagos, the Olora Community is involved in cocoa farming. Export revenue from cocoa farming is helping improve the quality of life for the villagers by paying for basic amenities like healthcare and education.
“We also grow other things, but we focus more on cocoa because of its profitability,” explains Chief Akanmu Akinsumbo of the Olora Community.
Saro Agro-Allied is a major agro-commodity exporter in Nigeria. During peak season, they visit the village every week to pick up cocoa by the tonne, before processing it and preparing it for export.
A partnership between Saro Agro-Allied and the Olora Community aims to increase the production further, as the exporter supplies fertiliser and other yield-enhancing techniques.
"Increased production comes through the farmers, and we believe in synergies. So we work with farmers to increase their yield. That benefits us as well as the farmers, who get a substantial part of the revenue," says Monday Awulu, Managing Director at Saro Agro-Allied.
When cocoa gets into the warehouse, it’s analysed for quality and sorted. Then it’s processed to customer specifications. Then it has to be taken to the port for export.
“It’s imperative that the vessel picks up the cocoa on time so that the total voyage time is shortened,” says Monday Awulu. “That’s where we rely on Safmarine and their regularity when it comes to time. That’s the key winning point for them; and the reason why we don’t use any other shipping partner.”
Last year, all of the 1,200 containers of cocoa that Saro Agro-Allied exported out of Nigeria left on Safmarine vessels, an unusual exclusivity that is not lost on Maureen Ogadi, Safmarine’s export manager for West Nigeria.
“It is a real vote of confidence, and it translates into big demands on us. Being a cash crop, cocoa must make the vessel as planned, every time. So we have to have built-in checks and measures, and there are a lot of extra processes to follow to make sure that happens,” she says.
“In Nigeria, farmers get a substantial part of the cocoa proceeds, so the increase in production is reflected in their livelihoods and their enhanced quality of life, and we’re delighted to be a part of it,” concludes Monday Awulu.