Professor Malaki Akoroda, the immediate executive director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (KRIN), is in the Department of Agronomy at the University of Ibadan. He talks about the problems of the cocoa industry and the way forward. FEMI IBRORGBA
Nigeria has set a goal to increase the production of cocoa beans from about 200 metric tons to about 500 metric tons by 2015. Why it failed?
Industry in Nigeria is an old industry with a long history, but we cannot achieve this based on two factors. The first is a common area with viable trees, and the second is proper processing and drying. These are two factors controlling the exits.
What do you mean?
If we take the first, total area of viable fruit-producing trees, it means that there are trees that are viable. As soon as this is permitted, you take the pod and process it. Now, as you are processing, can lead to large losses of beans. This can lead to a deterioration in quality, which will still be reset, and this can lead to good quality, which will still control the price. So, before harvest and after harvest, there are two important things. Once these two factors are properly managed, we’ll get high performance beans.
Take the first, that is, the area containing the correct viable trees. Viable trees are those of the best varieties. Now, are the best options available? Yes, at the Nigeria Cocoa Research Institute (KRIN). Do people grow them? It will depend on whether you provide them with improved distribution and distribution options. If it is available, and they do not know about it; if it is available and they do not know how to access it or replace them with old ones with new ones; and if it is available, and they do not fall into their location, the result will be negative.
You can hear about it in campaigns and radio programs, but how will it reach the local government, where is the cocoa farmer? This is a job for the government (federal, state or local) and the cocoa farmers association. This is a team work. If the government joins non-governmental organizations and farmers' associations, now they can bring these species to the doorstep of farmers who grow them. Suppose a million farmers take a million seedlings of new varieties, and they all produce at least twice the size of the old, if not three times the size of the old. So you can see a jump in total volume.
Why does he fail despite the whole campaign and the spread of improved varieties in the last administration?
The campaign is not synonymous with the release of funds for action. Allocating funds for action is key. Two, the right direction and use of these funds for this purpose is another matter. So, if you distract money, the goal will not be achieved. If you bring 10 percent of what we have planned, only 10 percent will be achieved. Thus, we can break it into many areas. Good advertising in the media is not equal to the release of funds for each year of assignment.
Moving forward, some people can go to cocoa research institutes, buy seedlings and pods of new varieties, open a small nursery and get about 100, 200 or even 1000 trees and put them per hectare. And in the next 18 months, they are starting to see good quality pods. Now they need to be taught how to handle well, double drying is not on the surface of any solid.
Does this bring us to the second aspect?
In most cases, when farmers dry cocoa beans on a hard surface, only the top of the beans are dried, but the bottom is wet because it is on a solid. But if it is on a grid with holes, both sides can dry out, as in some areas. You need a special platform that allows you to dry at the top and bottom so that double drying causes the beans to dry quickly and evenly with less mold and less loss.
In a year you can collect as much as you lose during processing. You can spend all your efforts one year a week on poor processing. Therefore, if you want to wash your cocoa beans using the sun most of the time, you must be very careful.
The Cocoa Association speaks of more than 20 cocoa companies, only four survive. How do you assess the economic losses in Nigeria?
As an agronomist, I will say that the delivery of raw beans to these processing plants was expensive for two reasons: working and chemical. Chemicals come at a rate of between 360 and one dollar. None of these chemicals are manufactured in Nigeria. Now do not forget that many Nigerians do not consume cocoa.
Many Nigerians do not eat cocoa products. If you produce one hundred tons and only 8% are consumed locally, this means that local farmers and factories do not produce for local consumption.
They must produce for external consumption, and the quality of what you produce and the quality of what European countries produce does not match the taste of the local population in Europe. This one.
The second point is that the tax regime against processed products from Nigeria is very high. It is necessary that you do not send processed products to Europe, that their own factories continue to operate, but you do not compete with your factories.
You said that we do not consume most of the cocoa products in Nigeria, but drinks and sweets are consumed locally?
You know, the percentage of your salary that you put on a drink is a very small percentage. If you say that you have not been paid 14 months, the proportion of your salary imposed on drinks will be zero. So you can see that when the companies of those who sell these products continue to advertise, they implore you to come and patronize them, because somehow they don’t get the full amount of customers as they should have been.
So you are looking at income. When income averages N20,000 or N30,000 in the state, how much of this will be the person who will drink? How much would he put on cocoa products?
Only the rich love and eat chocolate, but the question is, how many are there? One percent of people in Ibadan will eat chocolate at least twice a week.
But I think this taste for cocoa is growing. As young children go through this age and generation, where cocoa products seem more bizarre, consumption will grow overtime. However, do not forget that poverty affects cocoa consumption, and because of poverty, which grows according to statistics, the consumption of chocolate and cocoa products will be affected.
Can you quantify the economic losses in the country as a result of the fact that about 16 cocoa companies suffered as a result?
I will not be able to give you real numbers, but I will tell you that many people, at least 60% of the previous number of employees, do not work. Why do I say 60%, because Multi Treks Integrated Foods Plc was the largest processor, but all the buyers, sellers, carriers and people in the branches sold these products, sachet manufacturers, paper manufacturers, cup manufacturers, plastic manufacturers, and straw producers who were associated with the company, folded.
Do you subscribe for the return of cocoa or product boards, as it was in the old days, to coordinate cash crops such as cocoa, cashew and others?
What was the first to fail? Integrity was not there. Bring it or not bring it, could you bring back the integrity? Value is valued? If you put a board or do not, it is not important. Ghana works on board until tomorrow, and she works for them because of differences in integrity. Many countries do not want to deal with Nigeria. What for? This is a lack of integrity; there is a low level of integrity, a low percentage of integrity and a low degree of integrity.