Why Nigeria is losing cocoa wealth

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• Adesina, Ogbeh failed to resuscitate production

• experts watching current agric minister’s body language

 

By 2025, the global market size for cocoa beans is expected to hit USD16.32 billion at a Compound annual growth rate  of 7.3%, says a report by Grand View Research.

For other cocoa products, the value is expected to reach $30.2 in 2026 according to Allied Market Research. However, the figure could go up to $67.22 billion by the end of 2025 if chocolate is added.

According to the world Cocoa Foundation, the crop contributes significantly to households, communities and national economies in West Africa.

“Collectively, this region’s estimated two million smallholder cocoa farmers produce approximately 70% of the world’s supply. It is a highly valued cash crop across the region, one grown in association with multiple food crops presenting important food security benefits and is often grown alongside other cash crops like rubber, oil palm, coffee and cashews. Exported cocoa also provides national economies with vital revenues, bringing in an estimated $7 billion in 2012 to the national economies of West Africa,” the World Cocoa Foundation African Cocoa Initiative (ACI) Phase II reports said.

Declining production

Despite the fact that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and its Global Development Alliance (GDA) came up with the African Cocoa Initiative (ACI) Phase II for Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, production in Nigeria is on the decline.

The $12 million ($5M from USAID and, $7M from WCF), which ends next year (2021)) is being implemented in collaboration with relevant government agencies in participating countries- in the case of Nigeria, by the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN).

While all the other countries have witnessed a significant increase in production according to statistics from FAO and other international agencies, Nigeria seems to be losing its cocoa wealth.

For example, Cote D’Ivoire grew from 1.4 million metric tons in 2012/2013 to 2.03 million tons by this year. Ghana progressed from 835,460 tons to 883,652 tons while Cameroon went up from 275,000 to 295,028 during the same period.

But Nigeria slumps from 367,000 metric tons to 328,263 tons according to available statistics-something that should worry government in view of the economy potential of cocoa and it wide range of value chains.

How Adesina, Ogbeh failed to resuscitate cocoa

Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina,  former Minister of Agriculture & Rural Development under the Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s administration  told the world that government was  distributing almost four million high yielding hybrid pods free of charge to Nigerian farmers and investors.

“They are also designed to mature faster, within two and a half years, instead of five years. The pods will produce enough seedlings to establish more than 100,000 hectares of new cocoa plantations. Last nursery season, we distributed over 400,000 hybrid pods which resulted in over 14 million seedlings – enough to plant about 13,000 new hectares of improved varieties.

“In 2013, the government will provide $US 14 million to support 160,000 cocoa farmers with improved access to cocoa hybrids and agrochemicals. More than one million pods will be distributed during the 2013 nursery season to plant and rehabilitate about 30,000 hectares of cultivated area.

“We have recently signed a partnership agreement to scale-up Cocoa Livelihood Program activities in 10 cocoa producing states with an annual commitment of almost $US 700,000 over the next two years. This initiative will train 70,000 farmers and establish or strengthen 100 farmer groups to ensure access to basic finance and production support, which in turn, will advance a healthier cocoa and rural economy” Adesina said while serving as a minister.

Despite the claims and prediction that Nigeria’s cocoa production could hit one million tons in 2020, nothing close to it happened.

Chief Audu Ogbeh, who took over from Dr Adesina, did not also change the narrative.

On assumption of office, Ogbeh repeatedly told Nigeria that he was taking Nigeria back to the top in cocoa production.

“It is an embarrassment that Nigeria fell to the seventh place. We are re-launching cocoa. We are targeting 15 to 20 million trees a year and we are rehabilitating the existing ones and improving upon agronomic practices, and processing and all the value chains that need to take us to number one,” Ogbeh said, but he never did.

Many observers are however watching the body language of the current minister, Alhaji Sabo Nanano on cocoa production to see if he can write his name in gold in cocoa production.

The problem with cocoa production

Despite the fact that the National Cocoa Development Programmes and the National Cocoa Development Committee, which was inaugurated in 2000 to coordinate the Cocoa production in 14 producing states with the aim of rehabilitating 15.000 hectares plantation annually, the mirage of problems in the industry continue.

Experts like Akin Olusuyi, chairman of Cocoa Processors Association of Nigeria and a cocoa farmer in an earlier conversation with this reporter, agreed that the trees and the farmers were getting old and the government was not doing anything to bait young people into it.

Others believe the young people themselves are not patient enough to go into cocoa as they seek a venture that yields quick returns.

Poor infrastructure like rural access roads to most farms, affordable inputs and inconsistent market structure are other factors farmers said discourage new entrants.

What FG must do on cocoa-Don

An expert has explained that cocoa production continues to decline in the country because farmers have not received any support from government.

Prof  Adebisi, Moruf Ayodele. Department of Plant Breeding & Seed Technology, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, said “the cocoa marketing board no longer in place and the farmers are at the mercy of the buyers who in most cases dictate the ridiculous prices of  cocoa beans.

“Also, most of the farmers still rely on old cocoa plants of over 40 years which are characterized with decline in genetic performance. This results in low productivity of the farms and leading to low income per unit area of the farm land. Many of the old cocoa plants have been destroyed by fire and strategies have not been in put place every year by the farmers,” he said.

The don also said that farmers are yet to adopt the newly developed improved cocoa varieties to due shortage of extension agents.

He advised government to revive cocoa marketing boards in each producing state, adding that “this will encourage farmers to have good profit from their produce.”

Farmers should be massively supported with herbicides, insecticides, fertilizers, improved seedlings, single digit interest rate loan and engaging qualified extension agents to provide information to farmers on new production technologies.

Professor Adebisi also counseled the federal government to strengthen cocoa research institution and departments of agriculture of Nigerian Universities to “develop more new early maturing varieties that can withstand biotic and abiotic stresses.”

He also appealed to government to encourage the formation of cocoa cooperative societies at both local and state levels for easy access to finance and marketing.

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