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Nigeria’s minister says cocoa crop to more than double

agric_min_akinwunmi-adesinaNigeria’s cocoa production is expected to more than double within three years after farmers were supplied with better-yielding seeds, Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina said.

Nigeria has given farmers hybrid seedlings to boost yields fivefold, Adesina said in a Sept. 14 interview with Bloomberg Television Africa in Abuja, the capital.

“In another 2 1/2 to 3 years you’re going to see a huge bump in the production of cocoa,” the minister said. “We expect that within a couple of years you will see that jump to 800,000 metric tons” a year.

Nigeria is the world’s fourth-largest cocoa producer behind Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia, according to the London-based International Cocoa Organization. Nigeria’s production was 240,000 tons this season, according to the organization. The minister estimated it at 350,000 tons.

“We can afford to lose to the Elephants of Ivory Coast and the Black Stars of Ghana in soccer, but not in cocoa. So we are after them,” the minister said, referring to the national teams of Nigeria’s cocoa-growing rivals.

Ivory Coast produced 1.73 million tons of cocoa in the current season while Ghana produced 920,000 tons, according to the International Cocoa Organization. Cocoa futures traded in London jumped 16 percent this year to 2,005 pounds ($3,269) a ton today on the Liffe exchange.

At the same time Nigeria is expanding its rice production, part of a government drive to reduce annual food imports of more than $10 billion, he said.

Rice Exporter
The country aims to be a net exporter of rice in three years, the minister said.

“Every single day, I have people coming to my office who want to do rice, not import,” said Adesina, citing Singapore-based Olam International Ltd (OLAM) and Nigeria’s Dangote Group’s investments. Olam said in 2012 it was investing $50 million in its rice farm in the central Nasarawa State. Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is investing $1 billion in local rice production.

“Rice is the most profitable commodity in Nigeria,” with a rate of return for investing in rice sitting between 42 and 45 percent, Adesina said.

Africa’s most populous nation of about 170 million people would first have to become self-sufficient, the minister said.

In the 2013-14 marketing year, Nigeria produced about 2.77 million tons of rice and imported 3 million tons, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The gap between that and local consumption of 6 million tons a year, the biggest in Africa, was met from stocks.

Monsanto, Syngenta
Nigeria also imported 4.55 million tons of wheat, the most in sub-Saharan Africa, and 1.47 million tons of sugar.

As part of its drive to boost local crop production Nigeria is encouraging seed companies to set up and expand and is considering legalizing the use of genetically modified seeds and food.

Monsanto Co. (MON), the world’s largest seedmaker, and Syngenta AG (SYNN), the fourth-largest, are some of the companies expanding their operations in Nigeria, as the country seeks to pass regulations to allow the use of GMOS.

While in Africa, GMOs are permitted in South Africa they are barred in many countries on the continent and the cultivation of most biotech crops is banned in the European Union.

“I make absolutely no apologies at all for Nigeria to use modern science,” Adesina said. “What is important is regulation. You have to make sure that you are regulating properly, that you’re looking at impact and the risks and you are managing them.”