IBADAN, Nigeria, Jun 30, 2011 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex) --Nigeria has banned the use of copper sulfate in growing cocoa but its use is still widespread because approved chemicals are expensive and scarce, officials told Dow Jones Newswires.
"The importation of copper sulfate into Nigeria has not been banned because it is used in the textile industry and in animal feed, but its use in cocoa production has been banned," Hashim Yusufu, director of narcotics and controlled substances at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, told Dow Jones Newswires Wednesday.
He said importers of the chemical are under strict instructions not to divert it to other uses except those for which its import was approved.
The European Union and the International Cocoa Organization had said certain chemicals, including copper sulfate, used to treat cocoa in all West African producing countries, left levels of residue that are dangerous to humans.
The EU, a key market for Nigerian cocoa, said crops that exceed its maximum copper residue limit of 50 milligrams a kilogram would be rejected.
In 2008 the Nigerian government approved eight preferred chemicals that comply with EU regulations in cocoa production.
Robo Adhuze, an analyst with the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said Nigerian farmers have continued to use copper sulfate-based chemicals to combat the black pod, a fungal disease that affects cocoa, because they found that officially approved fungicides were hard to come by and costly.
The state-run Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria said black pod, if left untreated, could destroy around 40% of Nigeria's cocoa crop.
For example, he said farmers were unable to get hold of Ridomil, a fungicide approved for use against black pod, so farmers have been using "what is available in the market, including copper sulfate-based chemicals."
He said the latest information he he has is that a consignment of Ridomil recently arrived in the country, but said the shipment had arrived "late, the rains have been heavy and black pod disease is already on the cocoa farms."
"We (at CAN) are continuing our campaign against the use of copper sulfate in cocoa production. Where we have proven cases of its use in cocoa [production] we report to NAFDAC," he told Dow Jones Newswires.
Sam Kunu, president of Crop Life Nigeria, the agro-chemical industry association, said a shipment of Ridomil was received last week. He said prices of the chemical had risen because of the higher global cost of the ingredients used for its manufacture.
"The prices of cocoa have never been better than now and farmers are getting good returns, they should use the right chemicals which will give them better yield and more money," he said.