The Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has unfolded plans to address the challenges associated with cocoa exports and sensitise farmers on the processing of high-quality cocoa for export. TAIWO HASSAN reports
Cocoa is a household name cash crop in Nigeria. It is a key agricultural produce meant for local consumption and exports for generation of foreign exchange for the country.
Indeed, statistics show that cocoa topped Nigeria’s 161,285.72 metric tonnes of agricultural products that were exported through the port last year, accounting for 33,294 metric tonnes.
However, it is sad that Nigeria is yet to explore the potential in cocoa industry in the continent, when compared with countries such as Cote d’ Ivoire and Ghana.
Statistically, Nigeria is presently rated as the fourth leading producer of cocoa beans in the world, behind Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana and Indonesia.
As at last April, Cote d’ Ivoire’s current cocoa output was 1, 148,992 tonnes while Ghana was second at 835,466 tons. Nigeria produced 367,000 tons of cocoa in 2017.
With the huge variation in output production, the Federal Government intends to move up in the ranking as the leading grower of the cash crop over the next five years.
However, the challenges facing the country’s cocoa sector are enormous and this is one of the reasons why the country has not recorded much success in her cocoa export at the international market.
Indeed, cocoa producers are facing turbulent challenges and this is the reason why Nigeria has not been able to meet its production target set-aside by the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) – the international organisation that regulates the benchmark for cocoa export internationally.
Particularly, of late, Nigeria has been struggling to meet her cocoa production target set aside by ICCO and consequently, this has resulted to huge lose in revenue running into $1 billion yearly.
While responding to the country’s inability to meet her cocoa targets, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, linked this to negligence on the part of government. He said it had been the reason for Nigeria’s dwindling cocoa production in the past 30 years.
He said: “Official records of actual production and exports are difficult to trace, as proper records of production are not kept. Most of Nigeria’s exports aren’t being recorded as exporters seek to bypass official channels to benefit from the exchange rate differential between the official and parallel markets.”
However, for the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), the umbrella body of the country’s cocoa farmers, processors, traders and exporters, the challenges its members are facing in the cocoa industry are enormous.
Its President, Mr. Saiyani Riman, listed these challenges to include unfavourable weather conditions, lack of support from government as well as the use of fake chemicals by farmers.
Riman also identified economic woes orchestrated by Federal Government’s policy summersaults and other farm droughts as other reasons for Nigeria’s dismal performance in the league of cocoa producers.
Besides, he said there are no palliatives or incentives for the exporters of cocoa in the country.
Also commenting, the Chairman, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Osun State chapter, Moses Oladipupo disclosed in Osogbo, that farmers in the state were only able to produce 30 per cent of the projected expected cocoa production last year, adding that they got no support from the government.
“We faced the challenges of unfavourable weather, fake chemicals and lack of fund and financial support from government. Majority of our farmers lack funds and as such, could not pay labourers employed to work on their farms. It is not entirely the fault of farmers not being able to pay their employed labour, but what they get from their harvest is not up to what they have invested in production,” he said.
He said despite the provision of chemicals to cocoa farmers at 50 per cent subsidised rate by the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), government could do more to assist the farmers.
Oladipupo noted that the challenges faced by the farmers in the state had affected production last year, explaining that below 200,000 metric tonnes of the commodity would be harvested as against the 300,000 metric tonnes expected by government.
In order to turn things around in the cocoa industry and maximize the endowed potential in the sector, the NEPC Chief Executive Officer, Olusegun Awolowo, during a two-day Cross River Cocoa Stakeholders’ Forum and mini exhibition, organised in Ikom Local Council Area of the state by NEPC in conjunction with the Calabar Smart Office, Calabar Chamber of Commerce (CALCCIMA), Farming World and Rural Development Initiative (FAWARD) and Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said that Cross River State and others must tap from the cocoa value chain.
He said that the state must take advantage of rising global cocoa prices by increasing her production.
“The future outlook for cocoa in the global market is that of increased demand for cocoa and specific preference for organic cocoa, which incidentally commands a higher price in the international market as the demand continues to rise. There is the need for concerted effort to increase the production of cocoa to partake in the share of the favourable global market for cocoa,” he said.
According to him, NEPC is ready to partner with state governments, Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), farmers and exporters of cocoa to bring the desired value chain in the sector.
Stakeholders have expressed the fears that Nigeria’s failure to meet 500,000 metric tonnes of processed cocoa production in the next three years would result to loss of N1 trillion Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
GMO: Who blinks first – NBMA or HOMEF?
Efforts to establish Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in Nigeria are currently enmeshed in controversy as two key agencies- National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) accuse each other of sabotaging the nation’s food security. Taiwo Hassan reports
Indeed, Nigeria is one of the luckiest countries in the world that is blessed with large span of arable lands for planting of crops to ensure food productivity and security.
But in spite of the oil, which currently account for 90 per cent of Nigeria’s revenue and foreign Exchange earnings, agriculture remains the base of the nation’s economy, providing the main source of livelihood for most Nigerians. The sector, no doubt, faces many challenges such as outdated land tenure system that constrains access to land (1.8 ha/farming household), a very low level of irrigation development (less than 1 percent of cropped land under irrigation), limited adoption of research findings and technologies, high cost of farm inputs and poor access to credit. Also included are inefficient fertilizer procurement and distribution, inadequate storage facilities and poor access to markets, which have all combined to keep agricultural productivity low (average of 1.2 metric tons of cereals/ha) with high post-harvest losses and wastes..
Despite these challenges, agriculture still remains the largest sector of the Nigerian economy -employing two-thirds of the entire labour force.
Over the past three decades, value-added per capita in agriculture has risen by less than one percent annually. It is estimated that Nigeria has lost $15 billion in annual export opportunity from groundnut, palm oil, cocoa and cotton alone due to continuous decline in the production of those commodities. Food (crop) production increases have not kept pace with population growth, resulting in rising food imports and declining levels of national food self-sufficiency.
The main factors undermining production include reliance on rainfed agriculture, smallholder land holding, and low productivity due to poor planting material, low fertilizer application, and a weak agricultural extension system amongst others
Introduction of GMOs
Meanwhile, the introduction of GMOs into the country’s agriculture may not have gone down well with many Nigerians over lack of empirical evidence to ascertain and certify
them safe for human consumption, even though the country is facing challenges in meeting food production for its teeming huge population.
Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that food production will need to double in some parts of the world by 2050 and this translates to the need for more land for cultivation, which will not be readily available. Hence, the introduction of GMO crops to make enough nutritious food available with limited land, water and other resources was one of the reasons GMO was approved to compliment food security in the world.
The Nigerian authorities had given legislative approval (‘junk science’) to the NBMA.
Those in support of GMOs said population growth will necessitate the need for more food production.
But this may not be suitable yet for Nigerians who are yet get acquainted to GMO products locally except the foreign nationalities living in Nigeria.
Besides, findings have shown that GMO crops are reportedly resistant to droughts, pests and crop diseases, while some are purported to be packed with extra vitamins, minerals and other health benefits.
However, in order to buttress its stance on aggressively developing of GMOs in Nigeria, the NBMA accused an advocacy group- HOMEF for opposing GMOs empirical test and alleged that it was trying to sabotaging Federal Government’s efforts at moving Nigeria towards food security through the application of technology in food production.
The NBMA in a statement, said it was not established to halt the use of GMOs, but to ensure the safety of GMOs on human health, plants, animals and the environment.
The agency said: “The agency has no intention and will never verbally engage HOMEF, but these statements made against the agency are not only incisive but negate the efforts of the Federal Government to ensure safety in the application of the technologies that assure Nigerians of food security and food safety.”
NBMA accused HOMEF of being unpatriotic, noting that it had never breached the law in the discharge of its duties.
“The attention of the National Biosafety Management Agency (NBMA) has been drawn to a series of incisive and unpatriotic statements peddled by the Health for Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) about the agency and its activities,” said the agency in a statement..
“While the agency does not want to banter with HOMEF or any of its kind, it is important to state here that NBMA is a government agency established by law as a regulatory agency to ensure the safe handling and use of modern biotechnology and its products, which includes Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).”
It will be recalled that HOMEF and its partners had last September criticised the approval by the NBMA for the confined field tests of genetically modified cassava in Ibadan, Oyo State – a move they said was designed to flood the country with genetically modified foods.
But the agency in the statement defended its approval of the field tests of some genetically modified crops, stating that the approval followed due process.
Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey, accused the NBMA of abandoning its regulatory mandate.
“The NBMA are not the federal government, they are just an agency of the government and they are the ones that are inciting Nigerians because when they say that GMOs are safe and their job ought to stop GMOs but they are bringing GMOs. It’s completely what a regulatory agency should not be doing,” Bassey said.
Despite the controversy trailing GMO crops in the country, the multimillion dollar questions anti-GMO campaigners are asking is the safety of the environment and food
FG okays 2nd consignment of yam export to UK, U.S.
Nigerian yam exporters are set to export second consignment of yams to the United Kingdom and United States of America in the first quarter of this year. Prof. Simon Irtwang, Chairman, Technical Committee on Yam Export inaugurated by the Federal Government, disclosed this in Abuja.
The move, according to the committee, would eclipsed the 72 tonnes of yam that left the shore of Nigeria through the Apapa port to the U.S. and UK in June last year, which was widely reported as being rejected because it did not meet international specifications.
The chairman said that the committee had embarked on a tour of major markets, particularly those in the South-West, to ascertain the quality of the yams at hand.
According to him, the Federal Government is doing everything possible to ensure that yam rejection is not associated with the second phase during the export of the commodity.
“Not all species of yam are good for export. So, yam farmers and traders need to know the species that are good for export. They also need to know how to select, store and preserve them to increase their freshness and ability to stay long without decaying. We also have to let yam farmers know the seed yams they will plant that will be good for export,” Irtwang told newsmen in Abuja, last Tuesday.
He revealed that there would be no publicity for the second export as the flag-off had already been done last July by the Federal Government. He said that yam exports would be done without much publicity until the National Assembly repealed the Export Prohibition Act.
Irtwang said there was constant communication between the committee and companies involved in the production of cartons for yams packaging as well as those receiving them abroad.
He noted that with the lessons from the first export, the second export would not witness any challenges.
However, some stakeholders believe that the Federal Government’s move to commence second phase of yam export in the country will trigger outrageous price of yam and scarcity in the marketplace.
Farmers’ strike: Implications for Nigeria’s cocoa exports
Recently, cocoa farmers threatened to embark on a nationwide strike over the sector’s neglect by the Federal Government. Taiwo Hassan looks at consequences of the industrial action on Nigeria’s cocoa exports
Indeed, this is not the best of time for the country’s cocoa industry despite the role being played by the Federal Government to promote the development of the nation’s non-oil sector after the slump in the price of crude oil at the international market.
Despite the challenges facing the sector, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) has been at the vanguard of repositioning the country’s cocoa industry. But these efforts have not yielded the desired results needed to turnaround the fortunes of the sector under the present administration of Muhammadu Buhari.
Looming industrial strike
Following the instability in the cocoa industry, aggrieved farmers operating in the sector under the aegis of the National Executive Council of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN) a few days ago, insisted that they would embark on a national strike to protest the abnormalities in the sector.
This strike, if allowed, could spell doom for Nigeria’s cocoa production and decline in revenue accruing to the Federal Government from the sale of the commodity at the International market.
The association, in a communiqué after a meeting in Akure, Ondo State, recently, alleged that government procured substandard agro inputs for the sector, which is hampering productivity and consequently decline in profits by its members.
They expressed concern that this was happening, despite the diversification policy of the Federal Government into agriculture.
The farmers vowed to stage a mega protest across the cocoa producing states in the country, including Abuja and Lagos, to make their stance known to the general public on the happenings in the country’s cocoa industry.
They indicted FMARD for the sector’s woes, which is not in tandem with the current realities in the industry.
According to them, they have made several demands, especially in the area of procuring inputs for cocoa farmers, to the agric ministry without positive response and accused government of not carrying them along in its diversification programme.
However, the National President, Raimi Adeniji, the National Secretary, Adeola Adegoke and representatives of 14 states, signed the communiqué on behalf of the association at the meeting.
They said the development negates the Federal Government’s vision to develop the cocoa sector now that the price of the commodity is soaring at the international market.
Indeed, the association condemned the manner of procuring fake and sub-standard inputs for cocoa farmers, which they said, served as wastes and destroys the cocoa trees.
The association said: “CFAN reiterated our earlier call on Mr. President to re-organise procurement process in the cocoa value chain to give room for our contribution.
“Almost a quarter of Nigeria cocoa plantations were destroyed by fire during last year’s dry season without any support from the Federal Government, despite our complaints.”
They appealed to President Buhari to develop the cocoa industry as he promised during his campaigns.
“CFAN appeals to Buhari to intervene urgently to save the livelihood and future of cocoa farmers, considering the diversification campaign of the present administration,” the statement added.
Besides, the association identified economic woes orchestrated by Federal Government’s monetary policy and other farm droughts as the major reasons for the country’s relegation to the seventh position among cocoa producers in the world.
According to the association, the drought, which occurred last year also led to reduction in production of cocoa in the country.
Similarly, the fire outbreak that gutted almost a quarter of Nigeria cocoa plantations during last year’s dry season was a major factor.
They, however, said that lack of synergy between the public and private sector is another reason why Nigeria slipped to the seventh position as against the second or third position, which the country is expected to be.
They explained that this trend has affected the country in a major way while cocoa producers are still getting a little premium on their produce.
The association added that cocoa producers have been affected in terms of collaboration with the government and international cocoa agencies in grants that should come into the sector.
The threat to embark on industrial action by the cocoa farmers would not be in the best interest of everybody as it would further expose the lacuna in this present administration’s diversification programme to revitalise the country’s agric sector optimally.
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