Production of cocoa as cash crop has dropped due to inadequate financing, among other factors. This is despite that cocoa is the nation’s leading cash crop in terms of export and second highest foreign exchange earner as indicated by the National Bureau of Statistics’ (NBS) Top Products by Imports and Exports Q1, 2020.
Strikingly, as Nigeria faces regression in cocoa production, the crop in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire, with less number of hectares, is enjoying boom and has overtaken Nigeria in productivity per hectare in several folds.
A number of factors account for the decline in Nigeria’s cocoa yield, among which is budgetary allocations.
Apart from finance, other factors, according to experts, are low production per hectare, neglect of extension services, and lack of encouragement for youth participation.
Others are poor grading and quality-related issues and reluctance of banks to give loans.
Major cocoa-producing states in Nigeria are Ondo, Cross River, Ogun, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Delta, Osun and Oyo.
Others are Kwara, Nasarawa, Taraba, Zamfara, Kogi and Benue states.
The Ondo State Government’s 2020 budget for agriculture is N10 billion, while N5.55 billion is allocated to Youth Agric Programme.
Akwa Ibom allocated N12 billion to agriculture, though specific allocation to cocoa is not indicated.
In Ekiti State, Establishment of Cocoa Clona Garden/Rehabilitation and Cocoa Seedlings Production have zero allocation despite the state being a major producer of cocoa in the country.
Ogun State Government earmarked N21.634 billion, approximately 17 per cent of the total budget for agriculture in its 2020 budget proposal, but specific allocations to production of cash crops, including cocoa, are not clearly indicated.
The state’s Commissioner for Agriculture, Dr. Samson Odedina, told The Guardian the government focuses on providing the enabling environment for cocoa investors and farmers, saying it is private-sector driven.
In Edo State, the 2020 Ministry of Agriculture’s approved capital budget estimate is N370 million.
The breakdown indicates that livestock has N67 million; fisheries, N55 million; forestry, N38M and FADAMA: N20 million. Apparently, the state made no provision for capital spending on the cocoa sub-sector despite being a major producer.
Yearly production in tonnage nosedived from about 300,000 metric tonnes in 2013/2014 to 245,000 metric tonnes in 2019/2020 season.
But Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), despite the COVID-19 pandemic, reported a total purchase of 742,725 tonnes for the 2019/2020 cocoa season as of June 4, 2020, according to International Cocoa Organization (ICCO).
Similarly, Côte d’Ivoire, as of August 3, 2020, cumulative cocoa records, since the 2019/20 season started, established 2.043 million tonnes, down by 5.4 per cent from the 2.160 million tonnes reached during the same period the previous season.
Many cocoa processing factories in Nigeria are not functional or produce below capacity. About 90 per cent of the nation’s cocoa beans are exported and about 10 per cent is processed locally.
The country earned over N103 billion from cocoa products exported in 2018 as disclosed by Mr. Segun Awolowo, the CEO of Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC).
Awolowo had earlier said: “The low level of production is a result of many factors, including poor grading and quality-related issues.”
MEANWHILE, the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), a body of small-scale plantation owners, exporters, aggregators and processors, said its 10-year agenda for the cocoa industry included creating of 550,000 jobs, increasing revenue by N4.353 trillion and output from 245,000 to 714,000 metric tonnes yearly.
The agenda includes institutionalisation of cocoa economy finance products and services; maintaining formidable farmer associations; mushrooming of cocoa-preneurs; promotion of strong domestic consumption; and enhancing the clearing house mechanism according the global cocoa agenda.
Mr Sayina Riman, outgoing National President of the association and Vice-President of the World Cocoa Producers’ Organisation, disclosed this to The Guardian.
He said the national output of cocoa would increase from the present figure of about 245,000 to 714,000 tonnes. This, he added, would be accomplished by increasing planted land area from the current 657,143 to 905,000 hectares.
EXPLAINING how Nigeria lost out in cocoa production while Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire soar, Board Chairman, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, Alhaji Abdulahi Jao, said, the World Bank had advised West African countries to scrap cocoa coordinating bodies in the mid-70s and Nigeria totally complied.
“But Cote d’Ivoire was said not to have complied fully. Ghana rejected the neo-colonial advice. The results are there for all to see today. Those countries that refused the egregious notion are in the millionaire group of global cocoa production today,” Jao said.
Also, CAN President Riman identified lack of finance, Nigeria’s low production per hectare, neglect of extension service and lack of encouragement for youth participation in farming as some of the factors responsible for the constant decline of Nigeria’s cocoa output.
He noted that one of the major challenges of the industry was total neglect. ‘‘Finances are not given when needed for the industry. How many banks will be ready to give out loans for tree crop development? As much as CBN pushes them, they still give you facility to pay in 24 months, at most.
How can a farmer take facility and grow cocoa within 24 months and start repaying a loan?
“Cocoa farmers and the private sector have not failed the country but the country has failed those who still produce what we still call the golden egg. If cocoa has given so much to Nigeria, what has Nigeria given to cocoa?”
Similarly, Managing Director, Oluji Cocoa Products Ltd, Mr. Akin Olusuyi, said Bank of Agriculture that should help cocoa and other farmers are located in cities, rather than in local government headquarters and villages for greater access of farmers.
Mr. Adeola Adegoke, president, Cocoa Framers Association of Nigeria, an umbrella body for small-scale cocoa farmers that constitute over 90 per cent of cocoa stakeholders and owners of farms in Nigeria, admitted there are challenges, which include lack of access to improved cocoa seedlings, finance, manpowewer and cocoa agro-chemicals.
“If you look at the situation on ground, Nigeria is not exempted from the pandemic, which has created some gap, especially in manpower. Nevertheless, we are very hopeful that we will have good production, bearing in mind that the kind of sustainability assistance which smallholders enjoy in Cote D’Ivoire, Cameroon and Ghana is not forthcoming here.”
The administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan had introduced Cocoa Transformation Agenda (Cocoa ATA) to address factors affecting cocoa productivity and it commenced officially in 2012.
Over 160,000 cocoa farmers were registered and uploaded to National Farmers Database Platform. The farmers’ registration helped the government to determine the number of farmers targeted to benefit from the Growth Enhancement Scheme Support to cocoa farmers in Nigeria.
The cocoa sector has, however, suffered lack of attention since the current administration emerged as the emphasis has been on food crops like rice and other cereals.
However, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria’s boss, Adegoke, disclosed that the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through the Anchor Borrowers’ scheme, “is partnering with us to bring the first batch of beneficiaries into the scheme, which will be done soon.”
On the way forward, Prof. Malachy Akoroda, a former Executive Director of CRIN, advocated investments in production of seedlings of disease-resistant, early-maturing, improved hybrids developed by CRIN.
CRIN board chairman, Jao, also recommended the revival of a national or regional produce marketing boards, saying scrapping such boards were ill-advised, in bad faith and an error that Nigeria should correct.
“The Nigerian cocoa sector has lived in the orphanage for too long. It yearns for parental home/care. The home is Cocoa Board,” Jao said.
IN the face of the gloom, however, Cross River State, yesterday, said it aimed at joining the world’s best producers of cocoa.
The state is one of the highest producers of Cocoa in Nigeria, competing with Ondo State for the first position.
Governor Ben Ayade has been very aggressive in the farming and processing of cocoa in the state, budgeting and spending billions on cocoa farming and ultra modern processing factory.
The Special Adviser to the Governor, Cocoa Development Board, Mr. Oscar Ofuka, said, “We want to show it to the world that we have cocoa that is of best quality. The cocoa we have in the state is of best standard. The flavour is superb and the weight is there.’ ’
He said the state has established an ultra-modern cocoa processing plant in Ikom to crush about 120,000 metric tonnes of cocoa annually. With 98 per cent of the installation completed, stakeholders are waiting to see the realisation of the promise.