Mr Folorunsho Babarinsa, a researcher at the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPRI), Ilorin, said the institute had developed a Solar Tent Dryer for cocoa beans.
Babarinsa said in Abuja on Wednesday 3rd October that the dryer was developed to revive the country’s lost glory in cocoa production and boost export of the commodity.
According to him, the major factor responsible for the decline in the quality of Nigerian cocoa leading to the beans being discounted in the international market was poor drying.
He said the best drying method that would retain the quality of cocoa was sun drying but that it could be too slow in drying a large quantity.
The researcher said the dryer was an advanced sun drying method that would ensure efficient drying of the beans and still retain its quality.
“You cannot dry cocoa the way you dry other commodities. When you dry other commodities you dry very fast and at very high temperature. But when you dry cocoa too fast or at high temperature, it will not allow the chemical reaction that will remove the acidic taste to occur. Drying must be so slow that while water is being removed, you don’t overtake the chemical reaction.
“If drying is too fast, all those acids that need to be converted into volatiles and go away will remain entrenched in the cocoa.
“The solar tent dryer will dry the cocoa at an average temperature, therefore, retaining its quality and safety as it would not be exposed to flies and dirt’’.
He noted that the dryer was accessible, easy to fabricate and did not require electricity.
According to him, the Nigerian cocoa is being rejected because of the low standard of its flavour and aroma.
Bababrinsa explained that 95 per cent of cocoa utilisation was for making chocolate, adding that any cocoa with acidic and flaccid flavour could not be used for this purpose.
“ If our cocoa is bad, one of the quality determinants is the flavour and aroma which is required from the cocoa before it can be processed into chocolate.’’
He identified packaging as another factor negatively affecting Nigerian cocoa in the international market.
The researcher expressed regret that the Federal Government was not paying adequate attention to the cocoa sector the way it used to in the past because of the money the country was generating from the oil sector.
Babarinsa urged the Federal Government to pay adequate attention to the commodity to boost the country’s economy.
First published here