Cocoa growers in the country have expressed concern over the 20 per cent decline in production recorded between 2008 and 2012.
Dr Tunde Arosanyin, tthe National Coordinator of the Golden Cocoa Growers Association of Nigeria (GCGAN), said this in an interview with newsmen in Lokoja on Thursday.
He noted that the 30 per cent increase in production recorded between 2000 and 2007 had been erased, attributing it to inconsistency in government policies.
Arosanyin, who is also a national official of AFAN, was in Lokoja for the National Executive Council meeting of the association.
He said that the stoppage of all the initiatives introduced by the Obasanjo administration to stimulate cocoa production, was the immediate cause of the dismal performance of the country’s cocoa sector.
He also accused middlemen of denying cocoa farmers a greater part of their income, saying that the apathy towards the country’s cocoa beans in the internal market, was a deliberate attempt to bring the down the price.
To arrest the downward slide in cocoa production, Arosanyin urged the Federal Government to reintroduce the sale of herbicides, sprayers, insecticide, fertilisers and other inputs at subsidised rates.
He also underscored the importance of access to credit at single digit interest rate and encouraging the local consumption of cocoa products among Nigerians.
The coordinator further stressed the need to reintroduce the National Cocoa Development Board as was constituted during the Obasanjo administration to stem the tide.
He noted that the budgetary allocation to agriculture in the 2012 budget was not only ``grossly inadequate'' but also contravened the 2003 Maputo Declaration in which African leaders recommended 10 per cent.
He advised the government to put in place a mechanism that would give farmers a return on their investment so as to keep them on the farms.
He decried the continued dependence on imported food, saying that Nigeria had the ecological advantage to produce rice, maize, cotton, groundnut, cocoa, cassava, oil palm and sorghum, among other food items for local consumption and export.
Meanwhile, the President of the association, Chief Moses Aliwa, in a separate interview, told NAN that no cocoa farmer benefitted from the N200 billion Commercial Agriculture Fund provided by the Federal Government.
Aliwa appealed to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, to ensure that farmers were given adequate assistance.
He called for the intervention of the Federal Government to ensure the availability of ``Ridomil'' and other herbicides recommended by the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN).
NAN reports that CRIN introduced the herbicides to replace copper sulphate which had been banned due to its negative impact on health.