The Ondo State Government under the leadership of Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu has reiterated its commitment to collaborate and support all efforts to develop and move the cocoa and cashew industries forward in the state.
Akin Olotu, the Senior Special Assistant on Agric and Agribusiness to Governor Akeredolu, disclosed this while fielding questions from journalists at a media parley organized by the Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ondo State Council.
According to him, if the government at all levels put more efforts to develop cocoa, cashew and the value chain locally, there would be a tremendous impact on the economy.
Olotu said; “We have a lot of benefit from these cocoa, cashew, cheer butter among others because they are exportable. So we need forest and this is the critical area government need to look into. So if we develop cocoa, cashew and the value chain locally, there will be tremendous impact on the economy.
“And it will create a lot of jobs for the people, crime rate will go down, and we will have a lot of foreign exchange in a sustainable way. There should be an equal attention to tree crops because we need forest.
“There must be an immediate and conscious efforts to promote all these crops in the country. It is a matter of necessity, it is not something that should be delay, it can be treated the way the issue of fuel subsidy was treated.
“So the solution to our problem in this country is power devolution, let us reduce the load at the federal level so that people can strive.
“For us to do it successfully, we need adequate security. All govenors have agreed that we should have a state police. The people at the National Assembly should be sincere with all of us on this. So if we are to move forward in this country, there must be a power devolution.
“If farmers are secured today, I can tell you that we will be self-sufficient in foods in Ondo state. The security architecture of this country is not working at all and the problem is from the National Assembly.
“We need a system that is working, and until we go back to that, there won’t be a way forward.”
He added that cashew had become a national commodity that grows across the 36 states of the federation, with cocoa in second place in terms of foreign exchange earnings to the economy.
“For instance, several investors have shown interest in our agricultural projects, leading to the establishment of large-scale farms, agro-processing facilities, and partnerships with local farmers. To the glory of God, 6 investors are doing exceedingly well and we will begin to see the impacts in the next couple of years.
“So the ‘Red Gold Project’, which is a major agricultural initiative being implemented by the Ondo State government with the aim of promoting the cultivation and processing of oil palm in the state, is a big success.
“We are developing the ‘Red Gold Project’. Oil palm is another major cash crop in Ondo State, with an estimated production of 30 metric tons per hour, is a big revolution that has taken place in the state,” Olotu said.
On the issue of farmers in the forest, Olotu said; “I belief this administration is so kind to them, on like what we have in the past. It is a punishable offence for anybody to just enter forest reserve, building houses, creating camps, pulling down the trees and others. It is five years imprisonment.
“When this administration came in, we started the registration of farmers in the forest and the registration was never meant to confirm the ownership on them. And when we started it, most of them were not faithful, and most of them were not from Ondo state and we now made it compulsory for them that they cannot be mining our resources here and take it to elsewhere.
“Forest is a creation of Law, so you need a counter-Law to declassify the forest. Ondo State Government is not wicked with anybody and no responsible government will just allow the forest reserve to be occupied by people without knowing them.
“So the security of our forest reserve, boosting of our cocoa production in the state and making it exportable are very paramount to us.”
Olotu, however, warned the so called ‘Camp Heads’ at the forest reserve areas to stop fomenting the efforts of the government to provide the adequate security for farmers in the state.