President Muhammadu Buhari has charged stakeholders in the Cocoa sub-sector to step up efforts towards repositioning the industry and make it the national dream of Nigeria, so it can regain its lost glory among cocoa producing countries of the world.

Buhari expressed this at the opening ceremony of the 1st International Cocoa Summit 2017 in Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja on Monday.

Themed “Cocoa a Strategic Commodity for National Economic Development”, stakeholders came together to identify issues bedevilling the industry so plans can be drawn up to drive all-round growth of the sector.

The President, ably represented by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Chief Audu Ogbeh, said the cocoa industry in Nigeria has the potential to fully achieve the diversification policies of the present administration but due to over dependence on crude oil over the years, the nation’s rank has dipped. He lamented Nigeria’s seventh position as unfavourable to the economic growth of the nation.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, inspecting cocoa beans during an exhibition tour at the Summit (Photo: AgroNigeria)

“Cocoa is the second largest foreign exchange earner for Nigeria after crude oil and has generated over 2 million jobs directly and indirectly along its value chain.

“The sector has suffered neglect as a result of over reliance on crude oil. This led to decline in the country’s annual production from 420 metric tonnes in the 60s to 192, 000 metric tonnes in 2015.

“Therefore, this summit aligns with this administration’s agricultural revolution with Cocoa‎ as one of the main drivers,” he said.

Previously, Nigeria occupied the number four spot in the world behind Indonesia, Ghana and Ivory Coast. But it has dropped to seventh due to poor commitment to boost the industry, lack of quality inputs for farmers and the inability to attract investors.

Speaking to AgroNigeria, the President, Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), Sayina Riman, said the Summit’s aim is to strategise a clear path to revitalise the Cocoa industry.

“Through the summit, our goal as an association is to come up with a five year strategic plan that would deepen Public Private Partnerships, PPP, in the industry to attract investors.”

Also speaking, the Executive Director, International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), Dr. Jean-Marc Anga, emphasised on the importance of having a proper cocoa plan, which is crucial to reposition Nigeria back as a powerhouse in cocoa production.

“Nigeria has the potential to play a leading role in cocoa production in Africa. But it needs to draft a solid cocoa plan, strengthen and support the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria and other research agencies to develop new innovations and technologies to advance its Cocoa sector.”

Some cocoa farmers who spoke to AgroNigeria, decried the broken value chain in the sub-sector especially in the area of supply, and the availability of quality inputs.

Participants at the 1st International Cocoa Summit in Abuja (Photo: AgroNigeria)

They hope through the Summit’s deliberations, which had key stakeholders in the sector in attendance, all the challenges raised will be noted and proper action taken to solve them as only talking will achieve nothing.

 

The ongoing four day summit culminates on Thursday.