Abuja – Stakeholders across the cocoa value chain, both local and international during the week gathered in Abuja to brainstorm on how to relive the glory of Nigeria’s cocoa and return it to its prime position for national development.
Cocoa Before Oil Boom
The crop was a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria in the 1950s and 1960s and in 1970 when the country was the second largest producer in the world.
However, following discovery of crude oil in commercial quantity in the 1970s and 1980s, Nigeria’s share of cocoa world output declined.
The Fall Of Cocoa
In 2010, Cocoa production accounted for only 0.3 per cent of agricultural GDP. Average cocoa beans production in Nigeria between 2000 and 2010 was 389,272 tonnes per year rising from 170,000 tonnes produced in 1999.
According to ICCO records average cocoa beans production in Nigeria between 2015 and 2016 was 192,000 tonnes per year declining from 389,272 tonnes produced in 2010.
Reliving Cocoa Trade
Piqued by this development and every other challenges in the cocoa industry, birth the hosting of the year’s world cocoa summit; which Nigeria is for the first time hosting.
Declaring the summit open, President Muhammadu Buhari said the purpose of the summit was to reposition the cocoa subsector to regain its lost glory and bring to the fore the strategic importance of cocoa to the national economy in line with the economic diversification policy of his administration.
President Buhari, who was represented by Audu Ogbeh, Minister of Agriculture, noted that the event marked another milestone in the nation’s determined effort to diversify its economic base through aggressive production and marketing drive.
He said the fresh initiative represents in itself the innovative Nigeria spirit and determination to set the country on the path of true economic diversification.
President Buhari said the summit was an excellent initiative that will go a long way in opening the Nigerian economy to local and foreign investors, while encouraging strategic partnerships necessary for resuscitation of the cocoa sub sector of our economy.
According to him the summit was therefore designed to be part of this administration’s Agricultural commodity revolution with cocoa as one of the main drivers.
President Buhari added that cocoa as the second largest foreign exchange earner for Nigeria after crude oil and has generated over two million jobs directly and indirectly along its value chain.
Speaking further he said the sector has suffered neglect as a result of over reliance on crude oil, adding that this led to decline in the country’s annual production from 420,000 metric tonnes in the 60s to 192,000 metric tonnes in 2015.
“The consequence is Nigeria’s drop from fourth to seventh position in global cocoa production. The summit is therefore expected to address this trend so as to put the country back to its prime position.”
Dr. Jean-Marc Anga, Executive Director International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) stated that Nigeria has the potential to play a leading role in the cocoa sector in Africa and in the world and it must harness all its resources to play that role for its own benefit and for that of the whole African continent.
He said since the adoption of the global cocoa agenda at the first World Cocoa Conference in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire in November 2012, the ICCO has encouraged all its members to develop and strengthen their national plans for sustainable development in the cocoa sector.
“It is in this respect that ICCO has partnered with the African Export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) to assist Nigeria in developing a strong strategic action plan for the development of its cocoa sector. Both ICCO and AFREXIMBANK remain committed to ensure full implementation of the plan we are launching today,” he said.
Anga advised that Nigeria should strengthen and support the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) and other related research agencies to develop new innovations and technologies to advance its cocoa sector.
“It is always tempting when developing a national cocoa plan to focus more on high productivity to increase production.
However, Anga stated that the promotion of consumption of cocoa products at origin should be another pillar of the national cocoa plan for Nigeria.
“This is where Nigeria has a comparative advantage in terms of the size of its population and high middle class. Giving the low cocoa prices at the international level, we need to strongly promote local consumption of cocoa products through various measures to increase demand for cocoa bean to keep pace with increase in cocoa production” he said.
Akin Olusuyi, Chairman Cocoa Processors Association of Nigeria (COPAN), noted that Nigeria cannot get it right in the cocoa economy in general without creating institutions to drive its activities along the value chain.
He said lack of structured framework that should provide policy guidance and direction to the cocoa value chain in the country to achieve its full economic potential as obtainable in various degrees in other cocoa producing countries like Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia among others should be addressed quickly.
According to him, “The absence of institutional framework for our cocoa economy is being exploited by foreign operators on the local scene much to the detriment of indigenous players along other value chain in Nigeria”.
“We need a private-sector driven cocoa value chain regulatory institutions that will address the many distortions in the market along the value chain,” he added.
Olusuyi further said the benefit of this to the development and sustainability of our cocoa economy far outweighs the aggregate of the temporary benefits accruing to the individuals who are exploiting the distortions and confusion currently being experienced in the industry.
Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, Ondo state governor, represented at the event by the Senior Special Assistant on Agriculture, Akin Olotu, said the summit would fashion out appropriate strategies towards increased productivity both in quantity and quality, seek technologies for value addition and local consumption of cocoa.
According to him, Ondo state as one of the leading cocoa producing states in Nigeria is more committed to promoting cocoa production in the state and Nigeria as a whole, saying that the state is fully set to meet with the natural and human problems in the entire value chain.
Emphasising on the preparedness of the state to sustain and importantly improve on its leadership position in Nigeria’s cocoa economy, he added that doors of opportunities are open to investors that are interested in functioning in any aspect of the Ondo state Cocoa Value Chain Development Programme.
Dr. Victor Iyama, President, Federation of Agricultural Commodity Association (FACAN) said the only solution to salvage and put an end to the losses suffered by Nigerians farmers due to fall in prices of cocoa at the international market is to increase local consumption.
“We must produce, process and consume the final products of cocoa like; cocoa drink and chocolate. Our government must also add it to the federal government school feeding programme.
Sayina Riman, President Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said the essence of this conference is to put a concise document, a five year strategic plan that would deepen Public Private Partnerships (PPP) in the industry to attract investors.
“We needed to put a concise document, that is the essence of this summit, to achieve that purpose and for the first time we have the entire value chain stakeholders here discussing how to achieve purpose not on how to look for projections anymore.
“What we would have done in this conference is talk about the implementation, but we are pushing it a little further so that every stakeholder within the cocoa value chain will make inputs and we come out with concise document that will be implementable; not public sector driven, but private sector driven with public sector facilitation,” he added.
Speaking further on some of the achievements of cocoa in the past, Riman said, Cocoa birth most of the iconic institutions and iconic buildings in this country.
“If you know the cocoa house in Ibadan, it was the tallest building in Africa for over 45 years, cocoa money births the oil industry, cocoa birth the University of Ibadan and even the Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) that is the premier television station in Africa.
“What do you think cocoa cannot do, cocoa is still as neglected as we think it is today still the highest foreign exchange earner after oil. Cocoa has high employment opportunities across the value chain, the lowest crime rates is found in cocoa growing areas and cocoa market areas in Nigeria,” he added.