…As US govt partners FG to reposition cocoa industry
BY STEVE AGBOTA
Despite being the fourth cocoa producing country in the world, stakeholders in the cocoa industry have lamented that Nigeria is benefiting nothing from $80 billion chocolate confectionery market.
Against this background, the US government said it is supporting Nigeria to revive the cocoa industry, expand the opportunities in its value chain and reposition the country on the global market.
Speaking at the Nigerian Cocoa Investment Summit yesterday in Lagos, the US Consul General, Jeffrey Hawkins, said there was an insatiable worldwide appetite for chocolate but regretted that Nigeria was not positioning itself to take advantage of the opportunity that represents to develop the industry.
He added: “When I travel through the regions of Nigeria, I am struck by the fact that cocoa is still raised by hand, not by machine, and remains a very labour-intensive commodity to produce. Cocoa production is still very much a family enterprise, from planting to carrying the bags of cocoa beans to the buyers, who may be far away from their farms.
“Despite the physical labour involved, farmers are realising very limited incomes from their efforts.
This reality is aggravated by factors that are often beyond the control of farmers including pests, weather and diseases that affect yield, and the prices that are frequently fluctuating in world markets,” he added.
According to him, the US government has been working very closely with the Nigerian government, as well as with the country’s private sector, to advance Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda (ATA).
Despite that emerging economies such as China and India have developed a taste for chocolate, and many consumers can now afford the luxury, sadly Hawkins said cocoa production here in Nigeria is diminishing.
Said he: “Cocoa farmers and their trees are aging and farmers are getting some of the lowest yields on the continent. Farmers are tending small plots of land, often less than two hectares and are not making the investments needed to maintain quality or productivity.”
Meanwhile, the Team Leader, Cocoa Value Chain Development, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Peter Aikpokpodion, said that the Federal Government has developed the Cocoa Tranformation Agenda (CocTA) to grow Nigeria’s share of the world cocoa market.
According to him, Federal Government has also set clear targets to raise national cocoa output to 500,000 metric tons through increased farm-level productivity.
Other targets, he said, include to build farmers’ capacity in agricultural and business best practices to improve incomes for 250,000 farm households, create 390,000 new jobs along the value chain through increased production, processing, value addition and marketing activities, increased value addition and local grinding to more than 25 per cent of national cocoa bean production, raised local consumption to more than five of annual production and establish a strong institutional governance structure for the Nigerian cocoa industry through a sustainable public-private partnership platform.
Source : SunOnline