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Dwindling fortune of cocoa

By Maria Famakinwa


Nigeria is the fourth-largest cocoa producer globally, trailing behind Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Indonesia with a long history of cocoa cultivation. Despite the contributions of cocoa to Nigeria’s economy and its potential to do better through higher production, value chain development, local consumption, and export, this subsector of agriculture has remained neglected and underutilized.

The crop was a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria in the 1950s and 1960s and in 1970, the country was the second largest producer in the world but following investments in the oil sector in the 1970s and 1980s, Nigeria’s share of world output declined. In 2010, cocoa production accounted for only 0.3% of agricultural GDP. Average cocoa beans production in Nigeria between 2000 and 2010 was 389,272 tonnes per year rising from 170,000 tonnes produced in 1999.

In 2021, Nigeria exported cocoa beans worth N209.89 billion to the international markets, which translated into 41.6 percent of the total export earnings, the second after crude oil, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). However, the dwindling fortunes of Cocoa continue unabated despite advocacy.

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, an advocate of agro-industrial development through value chain activities, believes that with cash crops such as cocoa, coffee, cotton cashew, and other crops, Africa should add value and avoid exporting raw materials when it can maximize benefits of industrialization of such crops.

The National President, of the Cocoa Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Comrade Adeola Adegoke, while inaugurating The Cocoa GAP Handbook in Ondo State two years ago, affirmed that cocoa beans earned the highest foreign exchange earnings, apart from crude oil. “The cocoa value chain provides incomes to more than two million cocoa-connected families, and there is over $100 million investment in the sector. In our recent activities to enhance and push forward cocoa production from the current over 300,000 metric tonnes and expand our average low productivity from the present 350/400kgms, the association participated in the 2020 CBN Cocoa Anchor Borrowers’ Programme, when about 1,222 cocoa farmers benefited across nine cocoa-producing states at N593,000 for three-hectare cocoa farm maintenance per beneficiary.”

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Adogoke said good agricultural practices and new planting materials would help rehabilitate older plantations, which, in turn, would help to rev up the production figure to about 500,000 tonnes by 2024 and 1.0 million tonnes by 2027. “It is, therefore, our belief that the Cocoa GAP handbook would take care of the noticed gaps in our cocoa affairs and provide our cocoa farmers with smart adaptation strategies to mitigate the challenges.” Improving Research and Development, making funding available, improve farmers education among others.

In the contribution of an educationist turned cocoa farmer, Mr Musibau Lawal, some of the factors responsible for dwindling cocoa fortunes including Inadequate research and development (R&D), lack of quality education for cocoa farmers, and inadequate funding among others. He said that research institutions in Nigeria are either underfunded or outdated which he noted has led to a significant gap in localised knowledge and technology to improve outputs, both in quantity and quality.

He said: “To address this challenge, the government should partner with international organizations to set up new research institutes that are adequately funded and equipped with modern technologies. This collaboration would also contribute to increasing expertise in cocoa research. Additionally, the government can provide funding and other incentives for private researchers and farmers to encourage more R&D in the sector.

“There is need to improve the quality of cocoa farmers’ education because industry can only be as prosperous as its people. Therefore, improving the quality of farmers’ education is crucial to improving the results of the Nigerian cocoa industry. Farmers need continuous access to best practices, innovative farming methods, and solutions to emerging problems like climate change, pests, and diseases. Sadly, several farmers lack formal education which limits their capability to adopt new farming practices such as regenerative farming, and mitigate emerging problems. Similarly, due to their lack of proper literacy, the farmers are susceptible to engaging in inefficient resource management practices, such as wrong fertilizer application and suboptimal farming practices. All these shortcomings ultimately have negative impacts on the quality of their cocoa outputs.”

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Lawal added that aside from the aforementioned, the success of cocoa farming depends largely on adequate funding. He said: “Making funding accessible to farmers enables them to purchase necessary inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides, and mechanized farming equipment needed to maintain their farms and improve yields. Despite the availability of various funding projects in Nigeria such as NIRSAL’s Schemes and Anchor Borrowers Programme, farmers still face challenges in accessing funding. Many farmers are unaware of the funding opportunities, and even those who are aware may not have the necessary documentation or collateral to access the loans. Also, the application process can be time-consuming and complicated, further deterring farmers from applying for funding. Government should address all the challenges that are discouraging farmers from accessing loans for better productivity,” he pleaded.

Another cocoa farmer, Mr Boluwaji Agbaje, explained that there is a need for improved infrastructural development including storage facilities, to reduce post-harvest losses and ensure the timely delivery of cocoa products to consumers. The farmer noted that the time is ripe for Nigeria to unlock the full potential of its cocoa industry and sweeten the deal for its citizens and the global market.

His words: “The government should invest in infrastructure to enhance the entire cocoa value chain, from farming to processing. Improving transportation networks, storage facilities, and processing plants will not only boost productivity but also attract private investment in the sector. Boosting local consumption of cocoa and its products in Nigeria requires a multi-faceted approach involving public awareness, private-sector collaboration, and most importantly, government investment. By strategically investing in the cocoa industry, the Nigerian government will not only stimulate economic growth but also create a sustainable and thriving cocoa market that benefits farmers, entrepreneurs, and consumers alike.”

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