Nigeria’s Federal Government on Thursday announced plans to increase cocoa production as parts of its effort to restore the country’s lost glory in the production of the cash crop. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, made this known at Warewa in Ogun during the inauguration of Frangada Natural Cocoa Powder, produced by the Multi-Trex Integrated Foods Plc.
Adeshina said that the Federal Government intended to double annual cocoa production from 250,000 metric tonnes to 500,000 tonnes by year 2015.
He said that a Cocoa Transformation Team led by Dr Peter Aikpokodion, had been put in place to facilitate the realisation of the objective.
The minister said the development had become necessary to restore Nigeria’s pride of place in global cocoa production.
Adesina, who recalled that Nigeria was the second largest producer of cocoa globally, expressed regrets that the country had dropped to a distant fourth.
“In addition, we have become a dumping ground for imported food. Nigeria today, spends N1.2 trillion in importing wheat, rice, sugar and fish
‘’As we import, we spend our foreign exchange, making farmers of other countries richer,’’ he said.
He said that the ministry would be focusing on maximising yield per unit land area on the current 650,000 hectares of active plantation through inputs like agrochemicals and fertilisers.
“To this end, the customised Cocoa-Growth Enhancement Support Programme (Cocoa-GES) is being implemented.’’
The minister explained that the programme was aimed at supporting the vulnerable cocoa farmers to access critical yield enhancing inputs.
Adesina said there were plans by Federal Government to partner with the private sector to rehabilitate 200,000 hectares of land in the next four years for cocoa production.
“The ministry has already sent an initial team of experts to Indonesia to study the country’s impressive cocoa plantation strategy.
“We are also in consultation with key State Governments and private sector on the implementation of this strategy.’’
He added that the Federal Government had concluded plans to professionalise cocoa production by investing incapacity building for producers in agricultural practices.
‘’We have developed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cocoa Livelihood Programme of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) to train the first batch of 70,000 farmers and strengthen 100 farmers’ groups.
“In addition, work is in progress to develop a Cocoa Marketing and Trade Corporation, which will be private sector-driven and government enabled to coordinate the cocoa value chain in the interest of all actors.’’