The cocoa industry in Nigeria is re-positioning, not only to compete favourably in the world market, but also to rise to the peak of the global market of the commodity.
This was disclosed by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akin Adesina, at the 23rd partnership forum organised by the World Cocoa Foundation in Washington, DC weekend.
At the forum, titled ‘Meeting Tomorrow’s Demand: Productivity, Quality, and Farmers’ Livelihoods,’ Adesina told the stakeholders how Nigeria, is “developing a sustainable vehicle built on a public-private partnership platform to coordinate the whole cocoa sector that will be public sector-enabled but private sector-driven with all stakeholders playing active role.”
To demonstrate the commitment of Nigeria in developing the cocoa industry, the minister disclosed the plans on rehabilitation of “200,000 hectares over the next four years through an aggressive plan developed in partnership with private sector to provide employment for skilled professionals called ‘Professional Cocoa Doctors and Grafters’ over the next five years who would be able to deploy their skills to earn a decent living and rehabilitate at least 200,000 ha cocoa farms in Nigeria.”
He said, “With the support of MARS Incorporated, some personnel were sent to Indonesia to study Indonesia’s impressive cocoa plantation rehabilitation strategy.”
Explaining the Nigerian Cocoa Investment Plan, the minister said “the theme of this partnership meeting 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 major problems, which have militated against progress in cocoa business in Nigeria, namely: production: practices, productivity, environment, labour, youth engagement; poverty issue; access to credits; market exposures; price volatility; land tenure; environmental issue; 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.”
Team leader for the Nigerian cocoa transformation agenda, Peter Aikpokpodion, 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.”
Director and head of cocoa at the London-based Armajaro Trading Limited, Nicko Debenham, 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 tonnes 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 of agriculture, Grinsven said the minister’s message was like “we are taking our own destiny. We know where we want to go.”
Dr. Mark Guiltinan, a plant geneticist at Penn State University, spoke of what his institution is considering to do with Nigeria’s cocoa industry, in multiplication of planting materials for expanding production.
“We have been talking with investors and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture in Nigeria to fund a company to do that. It will be like a nursery, a laboratory and a retail outlet to give farmers new cocoa to replace old, dying trees. These plants will come from new varieties. The hope is applying new planting materials, fertiliser, educating farmers on how to take care of plants, harvest and post-harvest care,” he added.
Bill Guyton, President of World Cocoa Foundation, observed that “What is exciting to me is to hear Nigeria’s minister of agriculture share his own plan on cocoa industry in Nigeria. By what he is doing, he is playing a leadership role in the development of the sector. I liked his message on the roles of the public and private sector. He sees the role of government as enabling and of private sector as helping to improve the farmers’ livelihoods.”
The federal government has been doing a lot to improve the cocoa economy under the present administration, observed Akin Olusuyi, CEO, Cocoa Products (Ile Oluji) Ltd. “We need to create institutions within a legal framework, within an act of parliament. We need to re-orientate the players in a cocoa value chain. We cannot develop the cocoa economy if all we do is produce for export. Cocoa plantations need to be seen as business, going beyond members of family, to generate wealth.”
Underscoring the role of government in moving the industry forward, Richard Rogers, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, advised that “work in cocoa has to be government-enabled and private sector-driven. Various players have to figure out what our roles are, how to work together collaboratively and what the opportunities are for the smallholders.”