Cameroon – Euphrasie Mbamba, rising star of next gen bean-to-bar chocolate

Continuation of the article


Total plantation surface area: approx. 500,000 hectares spanning between 7 to 10 regions in Cameroon

Economic importance: Cameroon’s principal commodity export (accounting for 58.7% of agricultural exports in 2017), and its second highest currency earner (12.5% of export revenues), behind hydrocarbons (39.6%). The cocoa industry employs between roughly 400,000 and 600,000 families and provides a living (both directly and indirectly) to more than 6 million inhabitants.

Annual production: Cameroon is the world’s 6th largest cocoa producer and Africa’s 4th, with annual production levels exceeding 200,000 tonnes, (l’Office national du cacao et du café data [National Cocoa and Coffee Board] indicate 2017/18 campaign production at 253,520 tonnes, higher than the 240,000 tonnes calculated by the Organisation internationale du cacao [International Cocoa Organization]).

Average plantation size: between 2.5 and 5 hectares

Average plantation yield: between 300 and 400 kilos dried beans per hectare

Cameroon cocoa characteristics: Carrying a darker, less ruddy hue, Cameroon beans have a specific flavor and aroma particularly prized by Europe’s transformation and processing experts. Cocoa bean quality, however, remains at average levels because of sub-standard post-harvest treatment (e.g. faulty drying machinery) as well as challenging climate conditions (high precipitation levels). Traders and agents tend to buy poor quality beans and mix them with those of higher quality resulting in an overall ‘Fair Fermented (FF)’ product (95% of Cameroon production corresponds to this Grade 2 category). In light of the lower quality, Cameroon cocoa sells on the global market at roughly £200-£250 (approx. €235-293/$265-330) (London commodity market prices), less than cocoa from Ghana. Progress is however being made and the volume of Grade 1 beans being exported rose a staggering 713% from 1,099 tonnes to 8,933 tonnes in the period between just the 2016/17 and 2017/18 campaigns. Cameroon’s authorities expect this trend to accelerate, not least with the implementation by the International Interprofessional Coffee and Cocoa of ‘Post-Harvest Centers Of Excellence’, which operate in some of the production areas and guide co-operatives towards better practices.

Export market: 170,900 tonnes, or 67.4% of commercial volumes were exported during the 2017/18 campaign. Three operators (Telcar/Cargill, Olam (including ADM), and Sic Cacois/Barry Callebaut) dominated with volumes of 56%, whereas almost 50 certified exporters actually operate in Cameroon. The three primary purchasing countries for Cameroon’s cocoa are Netherlands (58% of exports), Indonesia (14%) and Belgium (13.2%).

Euphrasie Mbamba on her Cameroon plantation. © Sigoji

Available domestic transformation capacity:
50,000 tonnes per annum and forecast to rise to 75,000 by 2020

Cocoa transformation market: Cameroon is increasingly adding value domestically along the cocoa bean chain. Between the 2016/17 and 2017/18 campaigns, local industry transformation volumes rose from 33,023 to 53,403 with the Commerce Ministry calculating a short to medium potential of up to 130,000 tonnes. One of the pillars of the cocoa industry relaunch plan is raising the domestic transformation rate to 40% by 2020. The transformation rate in 2016 was 11%, in 2017 it rose to 15%, and in 2018 it rose further to 21%. Most transformation activity is carried out by Sic Cacaos, the Cameroon subsidiary of Barry Callebaut, and it grinds approximately 30,000 tonnes per annum. Chococam is another local producer operating in the local and regional market and it treats approximately 5,000 tonnes per annum, or under 3% of total cocoa production. Local artisans also grind a tiny proportion (a few dozen tonnes) into powder, cocoa butter, and even some beauty products. Although only at its very beginnings, this market has nonetheless tripled since 2013/14.

(Sources: CICC, BMZ, Direction générale du Trésor)