The Ondo State chapter of Farmers’ Development Union (FADU) has called on Federal Government to initiate pragmatic plans to boost cocoa production in the country.
Mr Victor Olowe, the state Coordinator of FADU, made the appeal in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Ondo town on Tuesday after the celebration on the 2017 Farmers’ Day Celebration.
NAN reports that the event, jointly organised by Tulip Cocoa Processing Company (TCP) and FADU, drew participants, mainly cocoa farmers, from the South-West geopolitical zone of the country.
Olowe identified scarcity of farm inputs, dearth of herbicides and funding as well as bad infrastructure, particularly poor roads, as the major challenges facing cocoa production in the country.
According to him, Nigeria is lagging behind in global cocoa production partly because the government does not have proper records on cocoa productivity in the nation.
“Nigeria now ranks a distant Number 7 among the cocoa producing nations of the world; we are in this state because both the Ministries of Agriculture and Trade do not have proper records of what is going on in the cocoa sector.
“Our products find their way to neighbouring countries such as Republic of Benin, Togo and Cameroon where they are recorded in favour of those countries, to the detriment of Nigeria.
“These are some of the problems and the government needs to rise to the occasion by effectively monitoring the production and sales of Nigeria’s cocoa to avoid wanton leakages.
“Government also needs to come to the aid of our farmers by providing infrastructural facilities in the rural areas. If the farmers have good roads, hospitals and schools for their children, they would be encouraged to stay on the farm,’’ he said.
Also speaking, Chief Simon Conway-Jarret, Managing Director, TCP, said that the annual event was geared towards celebrating and honouring cocoa farmers in the company’s supply chain for their commitments and outstanding performance in the 2016/2017 cocoa season.
He said that the event was also used as a forum to discuss the company’s future plans and get feedback from cocoa farmers.
“The joint TCP-FADU sustainability programme is targeted at helping smallholder cocoa farmers to achieve increased productivity, income and improved livelihood via their integration into Tulip’s sustainable supply chain.
“Our target is to get 100-per-cent certified cocoa for our cocoa processing plant in a sustainable way,’’ he added.
Mr Taiwo Osun, Sustainability Manager, TCP, said that the company had trained over 17,000 cocoa farmers in good agricultural and business practices in the South-West region.
Osun said that cocoa yield of the farmers was about 400 kg. per hectare on the average before the commencement of the programme five years ago, “but today, it has improved to about 650kg. per hectare on the average.
“All our farmers now have access to improved varieties of cocoa. They have been trained, over years, on good agricultural practices and we are happy to note that they now produce high-quality cocoa in a sustainable way,” he said.
Credit: The Nation