The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has unfolded plans to address the challenges associated with cocoa exports and sensitise farmers on the processing of high-quality cocoa for export. TAIWO HASSAN reports
Cocoa is a household name cash crop in Nigeria. It is a key agricultural produce meant for local consumption and exports for generation of foreign exchange for the country.
Indeed, statistics show that cocoa topped Nigeria’s 161,285.72 metric tonnes of agricultural products that were exported through the port last year, accounting for 33,294 metric tonnes.
However, it is sad that Nigeria is yet to explore the potential in cocoa industry in the continent, when compared with countries such as Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana.
Statistically, Nigeria is presently rated as the fourth leading producer of cocoa beans in the world, behind Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia.
As at last April, Cote d’ Ivoire’s current cocoa output was 1, 148,992 tonnes while Ghana was second at 835,466 tons. Nigeria produced 367,000 tons of cocoa in 2017.
With the huge variation in output production, the Federal Government intends to move up in the ranking as the leading grower of the cash crop over the next five years.
However, the challenges facing the country’s cocoa sector are enormous and this is one of the reasons why the country has not recorded much success in her cocoa export at the international market.
Indeed, cocoa producers are facing turbulent challenges and this is the reason why Nigeria has not been able to meet its production target set-aside by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) – the international organisation that regulates the benchmark for cocoa export internationally.
Particularly, of late, Nigeria has been struggling to meet her cocoa production target set aside by ICCO and consequently, this has resulted to huge lose in revenue running into $1 billion yearly.
While responding to the country’s inability to meet her cocoa targets, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, linked this to negligence on the part of government. He said it had been the reason for Nigeria’s dwindling cocoa production in the past 30 years.
He said: “Official records of actual production and exports are difficult to trace, as proper records of production are not kept. Most of Nigeria’s exports aren’t being recorded as exporters seek to bypass official channels to benefit from the exchange rate differential between the official and parallel markets.”
However, for the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), the umbrella body of the country’s cocoa farmers, processors, traders and exporters, the challenges its members are facing in the cocoa industry are enormous.
Its President, Mr. Saiyani Riman, listed these challenges to include unfavourable weather conditions, lack of support from government as well as the use of fake chemicals by farmers.
Riman also identified economic woes orchestrated by Federal Government’s policy summersaults and other farm droughts as other reasons for Nigeria’s dismal performance in the league of cocoa producers.
Besides, he said there are no palliatives or incentives for the exporters of cocoa in the country.
Also commenting, the Chairman, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Osun State chapter, Moses Oladipupo disclosed in Osogbo, that farmers in the state were only able to produce 30 per cent of the projected expected cocoa production last year, adding that they got no support from the government.
“We faced the challenges of unfavourable weather, fake chemicals and lack of fund and financial support from government. Majority of our farmers lack funds and as such, could not pay labourers employed to work on their farms. It is not entirely the fault of farmers not being able to pay their employed labour, but what they get from their harvest is not up to what they have invested in production,” he said.
He said despite the provision of chemicals to cocoa farmers at 50 per cent subsidised rate by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), government could do more to assist the farmers.
Oladipupo noted that the challenges faced by the farmers in the state had affected production last year, explaining that below 200,000 metric tonnes of the commodity would be harvested as against the 300,000 metric tonnes expected by government.
In order to turn things around in the cocoa industry and maximize the endowed potential in the sector, the NEPC Chief Executive Officer, Olusegun Awolowo, during a two-day Cross River Cocoa Stakeholders’ Forum and mini exhibition, organised in Ikom Local Council Area of the state by NEPC in conjunction with the Calabar Smart Office, Calabar Chamber of Commerce (CALCCIMA), Farming World and Rural Development Initiative (FAWARD) and Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said that Cross River State and others must tap from the cocoa value chain.
He said that the state must take advantage of rising global cocoa prices by increasing her production.
“The future outlook for cocoa in the global market is that of increased demand for cocoa and specific preference for organic cocoa, which incidentally commands a higher price in the international market as the demand continues to rise. There is the need for concerted effort to increase the production of cocoa to partake in the share of the favourable global market for cocoa,” he said.
According to him, NEPC is ready to partner with state governments, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), farmers and exporters of cocoa to bring the desired value chain in the sector.
Stakeholders have expressed the fears that Nigeria’s failure to meet 500,000 metric tonnes of processed cocoa production in the next three years would result to loss of N1 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
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