• Thursday, June 13, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Exporters, cocoa farmers lament neglect by govt

cocoa farmers

Exporters and cocoa farmers have expressed regret over the neglect of the cocoa industry, calling on the Federal and State Governments to support the private sector to boost production and enhance the value of the product.

Speaking at the SHIPS & PORTS Virtual Dialogue with the theme, “Maximising the Gains of Nigeria’s Cocoa Export in Lagos on Tuesday, Sayina Riman, outgoing president, Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), said that Nigeria was once the highest producer of cocoa but after the discovery of crude oil, the government neglected the sector despite its huge potential.

He however advocated that 5 percent of the oil revenue to be ploughed back to the cocoa industry.

Riman identified lack of finance, Nigeria’s low production per hectare, neglect of extension service and lack of encouragement for youth participation in farming as some of the factors responsible for the constant decline of Nigeria’s cocoa output.

“Cocoa built the foundation of the oil industry and it sustained the economy in time past in the 80’s. But because of the discovery of oil which Cocoa monies were used to build, what we have seen today is the total neglect of the industry. Cocoa is now being priced internationally because it is not a product of concern. Internationally cocoa is being priced because those who produce cocoa do not consume and those who consume cannot produce it at a competitive price,” he said.

According to him, banks still give facility to cocoa farmers and expect the repayment within 24 months for a produce that has three to four years gestation period.

“Cocoa farmers and the private sectors have not failed the country but the country has failed those who still produce what we still call the golden egg. If cocoa has given so much to Nigeria, what has Nigeria given into cocoa?,” he questioned.

Riman noted that the cocoa sector still has the potential to be one of the country’s strongest employers of labour if given the needed attention it deserves.

Obiora Madu, managing director, Multimix Academy, who also decried government’s neglect of the cocoa sector, stated that the country cannot get it right with the sector without paying attention to value addition through processing rather than pride itself as raw cocoa exporters.

“Cocoa used to be the mainstay of Nigeria export in the days of Cocoa House in Ibadan, Cocoa Research Institute but things fell apart after structural adjustment and the commodity board was the first victim of that. It has not been easy for that industry. What we are getting as value out of the chocolate industry is probably 3 percent, which is sad and the obvious reason why we are lagging behind is neglect by the government,” he said.

He stated Nigeria will continue to export jobs and earn peanuts as long as we keep exporting raw cocoa.

“Each time they say the oil prices go down to a frightening level, everybody starts scampering and talking about non oil export but once it starts to pick up a little everybody just forgets that they ever mentioned that. So the point is that it is neglect,” he added.

He said poor logistics infrastructure, which is adding to the cost of exports and the aging of most cocoa trees in Nigeria also contributes to low production farmers are experiencing.

“To derive benefits, we need to process and for you to process, you need an environment that allows that. Currently, logistics infrastructure is adding additional cost to export so much so that for some of the commodities as some point in time, the local commodity price is higher than the international market price,” he said.

Ofon Udofia, executive secretary, Institute of Export Operations and Management, said the need for the government to partner with the private sector to assist farmers in terms of training to enable them get the needed certification that would meet international standards.

“It is high time the government partnered with the private sector. There is a gap and that gap is not helping us in the sense that even though we want to produce chocolate and send to the world market, how many farmers in Nigeria have access to essential services and then certification? How many cocoa farms are certified? In as much that they want to buy from us, we have over 220 voluntary standards that must be followed for the products to enter the international market. So the government should assist farmers get the needed certification to enable them sell well, he said.