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ABUJA: Nigerian cocoa exports rose 43.5% in the first eight months of 2021 from a year earlier to 100,779 tonnes, official data showed on Wednesday, as demand recovered in the wake of coronavirus disruptions.

Measures by the government to curb the spread of the coronavirus hindered exports last year, creating a backlog of unshipped beans, with some stuck at the Lagos port and warehouses across the country.

"COVID-19 disrupted exports," a cocoa inspector told Reuters. "Some dealers have up to one year of stock in warehouses."

Cocoa exports, Nigeria's second biggest export after crude oil, stood at 70,202 tonnes in the eight months to August 2020 and more than doubled to 142,092 tonnes in December 2020, data from the Federal Produce Inspection Service (FPIS) showed.

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Commodity analyst Robo Adhuse said some shipments due in 2020 spilled over into the following year due to port congestion in Lagos.

"Beyond COVID-19, there was gridlock and exporters could not access the ports," he said. Cocoa exports were also choked by curfews imposed to quell unrest in Lagos, drastically slowing shipments to the ports.

The increase in exports from the world's number five cocoa grower marked a recovery in trend as demand for beans was starting to pick up in Europe and Asia, Adhuse said.

With demand returning, bean quality assessments were being done virtually, the inspector said.

New cocoa delivery contracts were virtually nil while export delays slowed domestic demand as buyers struggled to resell beans stuck in their warehouses.

Output for the October 2021 to September 2022 season is estimated to hit 280,000 tonnes, well below the 320,000 tonnes the cocoa association had forecast for Nigeria.

Dealers say the big rise in shipments is a sign Nigerian cocoa exports, which climbed 9.2% in the whole of 2020 from 130,071 tonnes in 2019 according to FPIS data, are on the path to recovery.

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