By Chijioke Ohuocha
ABUJA, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Nigerian protests against police brutality, coupled with curfews to quell unrest, have drastically slowed cocoa shipments to the Lagos port, adding to problems for farmers grappling with falling prices, an industry body said.
Nigeria, the world's fifth biggest cocoa grower, had barely recovered from the impact of lockdowns to curb the novel coronavirus when violence sparked by the protests erupted last month, forcing several states to restrict movement.
The president of the cocoa association, Mufutau Abolarinwa, told Reuters the combination of curfews and traffic gridlock meant it could take up to 30 days for containers to travel within Lagos to the port in the same city, compared with a day previously.
Exporters can cut travel time to about a week by using barges, but cashflows have been impacted, a potential risk for farmers busy with the main crop harvest.
"If the problems persist ... it might affect output," Abolarinwa said. But he also said output for the 2020/21 season could rise to 270,000 tonnes, from last season's estimate of 250,000 tonnes on improved weather provided the problems abated.
Commodity analyst Robo Adhuse said farmgate prices have fallen by around 8% to under one million naira ($2,626.74) per tonne, partly because of the curfews and lower global prices.
Abolarinwa said trading houses offshore have started to complain about delays in shipment but no defaults on contracts have been recorded.
One cocoa buyer in Nigeria's second biggest growing state Cross Rivers who has a 500-tonne warehouse said the delays could force him to stop buying if he runs out of storage space.
"I have stored close to 300 tonnes within 10-days," Godwin Ukwu told Reuters. "In another 10-days, my warehouse will be filled."
($1 = 380.70 naira) (Reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Barbara Lewis)
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