The national president, Cocoa Association of Nigeria, CAN, Sayina Rima, has assured that Nigeria would soon begin to reap the benefits in government’s cocoa revival initiative, projecting that revenue generation from the transformation policy would hit $1.7 billion annually.
Rima, who spoke to our correspondent on the initiative, said that CAN alongside other stakeholders presented to the federal government a 10-year cocoa action plan which is expected to boost Nigeria’s production capacity to 500,000 metric tons, MT, per annum when implemented.
In his calculation, he said that at $3,500 per ton of cocoa export projection price, if the 500,000 metric tons production target is achieved, the country would be earning over $1.7 billion every year.
“Currently we rank number 6 in production and 4th in global supply index, a position that is far below expectation as Nigeria should be top on the chart. We are at the moment producing about 300,000 metric tons by the calculation of operators and this figure might differ from statistics from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, because the country lacks data collection structure, but whatever statistics being put forward the truth is that the sector has been neglected to a point that the commodity which was once the prop of the economy is going comatose”, he lamented.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari has demonstrated good intentions to return the industry to its pride of place by signing the Instrument of Accession to the International Cocoa Agreement, 2010.
The signing of the instrument last month was sequel to the Federal Executive Council’s approval for Nigeria to accede to the agreement.
Following the execution of the instrument of accession, Nigeria accepted to abide by all the stipulations contained in the agreement.
He said the agreement will further strengthen cooperation between exporting and importing member countries; improve their cocoa economies through active and better focused project development and strategies for capacity building, and also build on the successes of the 2001 Agreement by implementing measures leading to an increase in the income of cocoa farmers and by supporting cocoa producers in improving the functioning of their cocoa economies.
The CAN president expressed optimism that the move will also deliver cocoa of better quality, take effective account of food-safety issues and help establish social, economic and environmental sustainability so that farmers are rewarded for producing cocoa that meets ethical and environmental considerations.
According to International Cocoa Organization, ICCO, in the 1960s, Nigeria accounted for 18 per cent of world’s cocoa and was one of the big three producers in the world, but today, the country is the sixth largest producer and accounts for just five percent of global production.
Nigeria that was once the world leading producer of cocoa has seen its production decline from 240,000MT in 2013/2014 to 210,000 metric tons in 2016/2017, ICCO data shows.
Rima said despite cocoa being the largest single foreign exchange earning commodity after oil for Nigeria, the country has failed to steadily increase its production over the years.
The president partly blamed the situation on the crisis which has crippled the Nigeria’s Cocoa Research Institute (CRIN) over the last four years, such that not much has been done in the areas of research and transmission of modern technology in the subsector to cocoa farmers.
LEADERSHIP reports that the Nigeria’s agricultural research institutes embarked on a four-month strike that ended in March, 2018, prompted by demand for more research funding by the government and a review of scientists’ condition of service at the various institutes.
The consequences of this that CRIN has also channelled available international research funding to the Ghana Cocoa Research Institute (CRIG) with little or none coming to CRIN over the years, despite having the highest number of scientists in the region.
Rima regretted that all the funds for cocoa development meant for West Africa goes to the Ghana Cocoa Research Institute because of the crisis in the Nigeria’s Cocoa Research Institute, thus making it difficult for farmers to easily have access to hybrid seedlings for the replacement of old and worn-out cocoa trees all year round.
He also raised concern about aging farmers and cocoa fields, which have contributed to decline in production.
Speaking with our correspondent on the issue, a cocoa merchant, Mr. Tola Faseru said the country has lagged behind so much that Ivory Coast has overtaken Nigeria producing 1.6 million metric tons annually and Ghana hitting 1 million metric tons per annum.
Faseru, said except government invests in infrastructure like warehouses in cocoa growing areas to enable farmers store and aggregate stock before export quality may be compromised and our cocoa rejected in the international market.
He implored federal government to support efforts of state governments that are currently driving cocoa production initiative.
Such states he include, Ondo, Osun, Oyo in the south west,and Edo state which he said is scaling up production alongside Cross Rivers state and other states in the south east.
Faseru, also said the sector can drive investment if government makes policy that will encourage local consumption.
He noted that one of the major challenges facing Nigeria’s cocoa industry is poor local consumption, and that the cocoa processing industry is worth about $10 billion globally.