The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammed Sabo Nanono has revealed that the federal government generated over $313 million (N125.2 billion) from the sale of cocoa in the last three decades.
With Nigeria losing its leadership position in terms of cocoa production to the Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia, Sabo Nanono said plans are ongoing to boost the nation’s local capacity to become one of the largest cocoa producers in the world in the future.
He made this known at the formal opening of the newly established National Secretariat of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN) in Akure, the Ondo State capital.
Nanono attributed the decline in production to bad weather, old trees that have not been rehabilitated, lack of improved seedlings, poor quality due to pest infestation and pesticide contamination, among others.
The minister however reiterated the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to the development of all sectors of the economy, especially agriculture.
“Cocoa production is on the front burner of the government despite the economic downturn the world has been experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Nanono said.
The minister disclosed that his ministry would henceforth ensure the availability of cocoa seedlings and pods to farmers to ensure food security.
According to him, his ministry has so far distributed over 300,000 improved hybrid cocoa seedlings in the South-West, South-South, North- Central and South- Eastern parts of the country coupled with herbicides, pesticides and solo pumps to jerk up cocoa production from the present level of 25,000 metric tons to 350,000 metric tonnes per annum.
Describing the hybrid seedlings being provided to cocoa farmers, the minister explained that they have the capacity of fruiting in two-and-a-half to three years.
Nanono also lauded the leadership of the CFAN for their focused vision in erecting the magnificent National Secretariat Complex in Akure, which is the largest producer of the commodity in the country.
Meanwhile, he said the agricultural sector contributed 3.3 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in one year, being one of the best sector after the services and financial sectors of the economy.
Similarly, he also revealed that prices of food commodities have started coming down gradually in the country only that cost of transportation, inputs and hoarding are stumbling blocks for Nigerians to start seeing the positive multiplier effects in the country.
He however noted that the agricultural sector is not doing badly, but stated insecurity and COVID-19 crises have dominated the straits in the sector, which is affecting transportation cost, purchase of farm inputs by Nigerian farmers thereby causing hike in food stuff prices in the country.
Nanono said: “I think that what people should understand at this period of instability in the country; in terms of COVID-19, insurgency, somehow, somewhere, is the fact that as a government these issues surprises us also but we have to deal with it as it comes because we should not allowed to be intimidated probably not to this level at which we are talking about. Last year, there was growth in agriculture in spite of all these challenges we are talking about, agriculture grew by 3.3 per cent. Yes, it grew in terms of real growth, Its contributed 3.3 per cent growth to the GDP, more than any other sector in the country except the financial sector. That is one. Also, in spite of the COVID-19, which we faced in terms of the challenges of transporting goods from one place to another, both goods for direct consumption and inputs, we still managed to overcome and moved agriculture forward in Nigeria.
The agric minister continued, “I think one thing that is interesting which people forget about is that this country is big. Definitely, the Insurgents, banditry have some impacts in certain areas of agricultural sesect, but when you look at it globally, you will realize that what is the per centage of all this in the overall agriculture population. Certainly is minimal, not in the way we are talking about it here in Nigeria. Yes, am not saying that there are no problems in our agric sector, there is, but not probably the way we are more pronouncing the problems, like not to allowed the Nigerian farmers to go to farms, that should be understood very well.”