YAOUNDE, Jan. 25 (Xinhua) -- Over a thousand canvas sheets each measuring 18 square meters were distributed freely to cocoa farmers in Cameroon's Central and Western regions, between Wednesday and Thursday, during the first phase of a sensitization campaign to improve the drying of cocoa beans.
Through the donation, the Cameroonian government intends to end the poor practices that have been observed in the cocoa production regions, especially the non-fermentation of the beans or the drying of the same on the tarmac.
"Cameroonian cocoa which is not fermented and poorly dried or simply dried on the tarmac loses quality and cannot be sold on the international market. Let's stop these bad practices," Cameroon's Trade Minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana said on Thursday when he addressed cocoa farmers from the Central and Western regions.
The distribution of the canvas sheets to the farmers is a response to the embargo imposed in early January to Cameroon's cocoa produce by the European Union (EU).
"Over 2,000 tons of Cameroonian cocoa was rejected at the EU ports because of non-fermentation. The main cause of the problem was poor drying conditions," the trade minister said.
The sensitization will essentially focus on identification of practices that pose the risk of contaminating the cocoa beans with the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, especially when the beans are dried on tarmacked roads.
The minister further indicated that the government plans to construct special zones within the cocoa production regions where farmers will be able to dry their beans.
Experts in the industry have warned that failure to respect good practices in the drying of the cocoa beans will not only cause diseases to human beings who consume the cocoa products, but will also lower the quality of the Cameroonian cocoa on the international market.
Cameroon is the fourth largest cocoa producer on the African continent behind Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria.
During the 2011-2012 season, Cameroon produced 210,000 tons of cocoa beans which was equivalent to 5.5 percent of the world production, against the production of 205,000 tons for the 2009- 2010 season.
Over 6,000 farmers are involved in the cocoa and coffee industry which benefits about 6 million people either directly or indirectly and represents 40 percent of Cameroon's exports in the primary sector.