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Cameroon’s Cocoa Crusade: Battling Illicit Exports to Secure a Sweet Future

In a bid to put an end to the rising tide of illegal cocoa bean exports, the Cameroonian government has unveiled a comprehensive plan to implement stringent packaging and marketing regulations. This decisive action comes in response to the alarming increase in cocoa smuggling to neighboring Nigeria, driven by a complex web of socio-political factors. This article will delve into the heart of the issue, exploring the background, causes, and the government’s proactive measures to stem the illicit flow of cocoa beans.

The Cocoa Smuggling Conundrum

For years, illegal cocoa exports to Nigeria have quietly thrived, gaining prominence in the wake of the anglophone separatists’ rebellion that erupted in 2017. The separatists’ attempts to distance themselves from the French-speaking majority included imposing a ban on cocoa sales to the French-speaking regions, leading to a significant drop in cocoa supplies. The situation worsened when a 10% exit tax was introduced, inadvertently creating an incentive for dishonest exporters to circumvent the law.

As a result of these illicit activities, exit duties and export royalties have been hemorrhaging the Cameroonian economy. An astounding CFA 10 billion (approximately US$16.06 million) has been lost, alongside a staggering CFA 60 billion (roughly US$96.40 million) in foreign earnings. This financial hemorrhage has now reached a critical juncture.

In a statement, Minister of Trade, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana, voiced his concern: “For the 2022-2023 cocoa campaign, fraudulent exports, primarily to Nigeria, have reached unprecedented levels, representing 10% to 20% of the national cocoa production. This costs the public treasury around CFA 10 billion in exit levies and export royalties and results in a net loss of approximately CFA 60 billion in foreign exchange repatriation.”

The Government’s Strategic Move

To address this pressing issue, the Cameroonian government has introduced exit levies. The primary objective is twofold: to promote local processing of cocoa beans and to eliminate fraudulent exits that have been a considerable detriment to the national economy. As a result of this policy, Cameroonian customs officials from the Active Group of the South-West region have taken action, successfully seizing eight trucks loaded with illicit cocoa beans in the towns of Mamfé, Ekok, and Besong Abang.

The Plight of the Cocoa Farmers

Unfortunately, the crackdown on illegal cocoa exports has not been without its share of challenges. Cocoa farmers, who have traditionally relied on the Nigerian market to fetch higher prices for their cocoa, are feeling the pinch. The separatist ban on selling cocoa in French-speaking regions has left many farmers in dire straits. They argue that the government has failed to protect them from the separatist threat, making the ban seem unjust and counterproductive.

Joan Mary Becke, a 27-year-old cocoa farmer in Mamfé, echoes the sentiments of many in her situation, stating, “We should be able to decide where and when to sell our cocoa. The government of Cameroon has been unable to protect farmers from separatists who have prohibited the sale of cocoa in French-speaking regions. Should farmers and their families die of hunger when there is a ready Nigerian market for cocoa?”


The Cameroonian government’s decisive move to regulate cocoa exports is a significant step towards safeguarding its national economy. While it may face resistance from cocoa farmers who see the Nigerian market as their lifeline, the broader perspective emphasizes the importance of economic stability and the prevention of illegal practices. As these new regulations take effect, the government faces the challenge of striking a balance between protecting its cocoa industry and ensuring that the farmers who tend to it are not left in the lurch. The future of cocoa exports in Cameroon hangs in the balance, but it is a journey that is necessary to ensure the well-being of the nation’s economy.

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