US Govt Partners FG To Improve Cocoa Production
The United States Agency International Development (USAID) has announced that it is supporting the efforts of the Government of Nigeria and its Agricultural Transformation Agenda to take a demand-driven approach to the development of the Nigerian Cocoa Value Chain.
This was made known at the Nigerian Cocoa Investment Summit, which held yesterday at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Lagos.
Jeffrey Hawkins, U.S. Consul General, Lagos, in his remarks, mentioned that the U.S. Government has been working very closely with the Nigerian government, as well as with the country’s private sector, to advance Nigeria’s Agricultural Transformation Agenda.
He however expressed his displeasure at the diminishing rate of cocoa production in Nigeria.
“Cocoa farmers and their trees are aging, and farmers are getting some of the lowest yields on the continent. Farmers are tending small plots of land, often less than two hectares and are not making the investments needed to maintain quality or productivity.
“With high interest rates, and the cost of inputs exceeding farmers’ ability to pay, the sector is not seen as a viable way to make a living. Sons and daughters of cocoa farmers are heading to the cities for other opportunities,” Hawkins said.
Preferring solutions, the Consul General stated that improved access to inputs, finance and investment, technology, and technical assistance to raise quality are all part of the solution to improved competitiveness in the cocoa sector.
In the same vein, Alf Monaghan, Chief of Party, USAID, in his welcome letter, disclosed that Nigeria is losing market share on cocoa due to farm size, demographics, productivity and age of farms. He said that to be competitive in the global cocoa market, a change is needed.
Dr. Peter Aikpokpodion, Cocoa Value Chain Development Team Leader with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, while speaking with our correspondent stated that there is a $80 billion confectionary chocolate market that cocoa farmers in the country are not enjoying from.
His words: “The process we start manufacturing made in Nigeria chocolate, then we can get into the market.”
On access to funding, Dr Peter said the Federal Government has put in place the Nigerian Incentive Basic Sharing Facility (NIBSC), through which there is significant growth in bank lending to agriculture.
“What we are doing is to organize farmers; reality is you won’t get funds from bank if you don’t have strong business model. We encourage them to come together as cooperatives and develop a good business plan; through that, they can get support from banks,” said Peter.
Other discussants at the summit also stressed that the Federal Government should improve the output of production, and start manufacturing made in Nigeria chocolate.