Cocoa production: NEPC lauds Akeredolu over efforts

The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC), on Thursday, lauded Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State, for his plan to revive cocoa production to aid the diversification of the economy.
The Executive Director of NEPC, Abdullahi Sidi-Aliyu, gave the commendation at a capacity building programme, in Akure.
He said: “I want to express the council’s appreciation to the executive governor of Ondo State for giving utmost attention to cocoa production.
“As the largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria, Ondo State has a lot to gain from the production, processing and export of cocoa and its derivatives,’’ he said.
Sidi-Aliyu, who was represented by Sam Oyeyipo, a Deputy-Director i?at the agency, said that NEPC would ensure the collaboration of all stakeholders in the cocoa industry to ensure that Nigeria derived maximum benefits from the export of cocoa and its products.
He said that the workshop was aimed at enhancing the quality of Nigerian cocoa and its appeal in the international market.
In his remark, “We are emphasising quality and not only production of cocoa, and the council has some intervention programmes for increasing cocoa output.
“Also, this workshop is to sensitise cocoa farmers and dealers, while gathering opinion on what is expected of NEPC, as regards cocoa processing and marketing.
“NEPC is currently working with Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, (AAUA), on ways of increasing the production and distribution of cocoa seedlings to farmers, while building their capacity on improved cocoa processing to achieve premium cocoa exports,” he said.
Sidi-Aliyu said that the Federal Government, through the NEPC, had developed a plan to grow the export of non-oil exports.
The executive director noted that Nigeria’s cocoa production was competitive, until 1984 when the country’s cocoa production started declining drastically.
“As at 2015, while other African countries could boast of cocoa production level of 1.7 million metric tons, Nigeria’s was hovering around 220,000 to 250,000 metric tons per annum,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of AAUA, Igbekele Ajibefun, said that the choice of cocoa, as one of the 13 national strategic export products was a testimony of the crop’s relevance to the economic growth of the nation.
Ajibefun said that the workshop was an attempt to motivate all the stakeholders in the cocoa industry to “look through the rear view mirror’’.
He said that the workshop was an opportunity to strategise on how Nigeria’s cocoa could regain its pride of place in the international market.
He, however, underscored the need for the government to demonstrate enough political will to address the falling ranking and status of Nigerian cocoa in the international market.
Ajibefun said that this could be done by funding the cocoa production initiative adequately and making loans available to cocoa farmers.
On his part, the Ondo State Commissioner for Commerce, Industries and Co-operatives, Timehin Adekegbe, said that Nigeria could not maintain its dominance of the world’s cocoa market, in spite of the good cocoa prices.
He attributed the development to old cocoa trees, ageing cocoa farmers, non-availability of good quality inputs, high interest rates on loans and high operating costs in the country.
He urged NEPC to collaborate more with relevant agencies to give financial assistance to the youths, with a view to encouraging them to go into farming.
Adelegbe urged the participants to examine all the challenges facing Nigeria’s cocoa production objectively and come up with plausible recommendations that would assist the government and stakeholders in efforts to improve cocoa production.
He said that this was the only way to ensure that Nigeria’s cocoa became more acceptable in the international market.

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