The cocoa industry in Nigeria is re-positioning to compete favourably in the world market. This was disclosed by Akinwunmi Adesina, minister of agriculture and rural development, at the 23rd partnership forum organised by the World Cocoa Foundation in Washington, DC, according to a press statement by Olukayode Oyeleye, special assistant on media to the minister.
The forum titled “Meeting Tomorrow’s Demand: Productivity, Quality, and Farmers’ Livelihoods, Adesina told stakeholders how Nigeria was “developing a sustainable vehicle that will be public sector enabled but private sector driven with all stakeholders playing active role.” To demonstrate Nigeria’s commitment in developing the cocoa industry, the minister disclosed a plan called the ‘Professional Cocoa Doctors and Grafters’ that allow professionals to deploy their skills over the next five years, earn a decent living and rehabilitate at least 200,000 hectares cocoa farms in Nigeria.
This is coming in the wake of the European Union tightening of laws into the economic group. Nigeria and other West African countries such as Ghana and Cameroon currently produce more than 50 percent of the world’s cocoa beans. Cameroon was the first African country to have its cocoa harvest rejected by the European Union, when 2,000 tons of beans failed to be certified in April. This the EU said was due to high levels of chemicals found in the product, which they considered to be harmful to human health, according to a report by Ventures Africa. It was reported that the sub-standard conservation methods used were the root cause. The minister is however set to guard against this. Explaining the Nigerian Cocoa Investment Plan, the minister said “the theme of this partnership meeting is very important to consider how to improve productivity, quality and livelihood to meet the growing demand for cocoa products estimated to reach some 5.0 million MT in 2020, some additional 1.0 million MT to the current cocoa beans output.”
He highlighted some major problems militating against cocoa business in Nigeria – production: practices, productivity, environment, labour, youth engagement; poverty issue: access to credits, market exposures, price volatility, land tenure, environmental issue, and social issues such as labour and migration.
“Despite these challenges,” he said “we see a great opportunity in the face of emerging realities of the global cocoa economy. That is why we have put in place a Cocoa Transformation Agenda (The CocTA PLAN) with a vision of ‘Growing Nigeria’s Share of the World Cocoa market. I will therefore, like to share with you the Nigerian government’s investment plan for the cocoa sector.”
Peter Aikpokpodion, team leader for the Nigerian cocoa transformation agenda, observed that “entrepreneurship in cocoa programme, hitherto lacking in Nigeria, is now being emphasised, as government is working towards facilitating stakeholders to recognise agriculture and cocoa production as business.”
Nicko Debenham, director and head of cocoa at the London-based Armajaro Trading Limited, observed that “what the minister said was important: guarantee funds, finance at farm level, provide enabling environment for private sector, removal of volatility caused by subsidy. If everyone in the supply chain management in Nigeria is working to move and engage in commitment, we will be able to move up to the level of 500,000 metric tons the minister talked about.”
Peter van Grinsven of Mars, Incorporated, from Indonesia, said “Nigeria has to become highly competitive. There is no reason why farmers in Nigeria cannot have the same yield as farmers in Indonesia. That is the future for the farmer and for the industry.”
Commending the speech of the minister, Grinsven said the minister’s message was like “we are taking our own destiny. We know where we want to go.”