The Cocoa Industry in Nigeria is confronted with many challenges.
Cocoa is Nigeria’s main cash crop and leading agricultural export; its production is essential to the growth of the Nigerian economy. Its productivity has earned the position of the world’s fourth largest producer of cocoa and third largest producer of cocoa in West Africa. The largest cocoa producing state in Nigeria is Ondo State. The state produces about 25 percent of total national production. Cocoa beans in Nigeria are used for varieties of things, such as, chocolate, cocoa butter (for cosmetic), cocoa powder (for beverage), and the likes. The cocoa industry is overseen by the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN). This body oversees the smallholder Cocoa Farmers in all Cocoa communities, regions and states in Nigeria.
The president of Cocoa Farmers’ Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr. Adeola Adegoke, revealed that there are many challenges confronting the growth of the Cocoa industry in Nigeria. These challenges, according to him, sprang up after the abolition of the cocoa board in 1986. After the abolition, the growth and production of cocoa, including the productivity of cocoa farmers began to wane. Since the abolition of the cocoa board in 1986, there has been no coordinating structure and this has affected the sector negatively. It gives room for farmers, buyers, exporters and every other stakeholder to do as they please; even the government and policymakers.
New varieties of seedlings are not readily available to farmers.
In the 1950s/1960s, the production of Cocoa was usually about 590,000 metric tons and this made Nigeria to be regarded as the second largest cocoa producer in West Africa. During the regime of Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, cocoa farmers never suffered patronage. Then, the achievements and contributions of cocoa to the South West economy was about 70 percent. It was also within this period that free education and the Cocoa House was achieved, with cocoa having taken the larger chunk of the GDP. During that period, productivity per hectare was very good and profitable.
A major factor in productivity per hectare is the issue of improved variety, although there are many old varieties that have lasted for about 50-100 years. The problem with this factor is that some farmers still depend on the recycling of old varieties for seedling production, which is also behind the decline of productivity. Research institutes are not adequately funded to produce the new varieties of seedlings. As a result, the seedlings are not readily available to farmers. Also, the CBN Anchor Borrowers’ Program’s (ABP) intervention in the cocoa production in 2019 was nearly zero input. The ABP was made available for 1,221 of about 200,000 farmers across nine cocoa-producing states in Nigeria. Without these subsidy, farmers cannot succeed in agriculture.
Lack of adequate funding affects productivity.
Funding is also quite a challenge in the cocoa industry. There is no obvious funding system for the sector. This lack of funds affects smallholder farmers mostly, because it is difficult for them to access funding anywhere. Without adequate funding, they are unable to take care of the cost of production which determines the yearly output. As a result of this inadequacy, so many cocoa farmers, young and old, have been forced out of the industry.
Asides funding, Cocoa farmers used to have a cocoa development unit which coordinated them and also rendered extension services. The extension units have declined exhaustively; water, electricity and other major infrastructure in cocoa communities are wrecked. The adverse effects of climate change, especially drought and irregular rainfall, also affect the productivity of cocoa trees. This effect becomes obvious as a result of lack of irrigation intervention. The rate of input cost versus output discourages farmers because farming is not sustainable without serious interventions. Cocoa farmers advocate that the government and relevant stakeholders view the economic effects.
Solutions to the problems of the Cocoa industry.
In order to find lasting solutions to the problems of the cocoa industry, an organization like the Ghana Cocoa Board that services the production aspect of cocoa development, research and development, policy making and coordination of stakeholders, should be established. The institution should be concerned with other responsibilities that would aid the improvement of the industry asides buying and selling. Recently, the Nigerian government has shown interest towards the implementation of the Living Income Differential (LID) of $400 on every ton of cocoa beans sold for the enhancement of the lives of farmers; this also, would be put into consideration.
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