… decryÂ exclusion of cocoa farmers from N200b agric loan
By Jimoh Babatunde
After a brainstorming two day convention of coca producing states in Akure, Ondo State recently, stakeholdersÂ Â called on the Federal Ministry of AgricultureÂ to wake up from its slumber and fashion ways by which cocoa farmers can enhance their capacities and contribute to diversification efforts of the Federal Government.
The cocoa convention initiated byÂ the Deputy Governors of Ondo and Osun states, Alhaji Ali Olanusi and Erelu Olusola Obada, was to restore joy to farmers through the implementation of good policies that will boost their production and put more cash in their hands.
After the convention, which took place at Babafunke Ajasin Auditorium, stakeholders urged the government to save cocoa from extinction and enhance the capabilities of farmers to contribute to diversification efforts of the Federal Government. They canvassed a review of the National Cocoa Policy and payment of the Cocoa Development Levy to assist farmers.
Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who was represented by his Deputy and the head Cocoa Development Committee in Ondo State, Alhaji Ali Olanusi,Â said that cocoa is a good source of national wealth apart from oil. Unlike petroleum, Olanusi said its price remains stable at the international market. But the valuable crop, he noted, does not fall on the lap. Rather, it comes through cultivation and planting of the seed.
His words: â€œLast year, we participated in the Fifth National Cocoa Day held at Umuahia, Abia State. But the state is yet to get a feedback on the outcome of the event from the National Cocoa Development Committee (NCDC). Sometimes last year also, I was reliably informed that N400 million was approved for cocoa development in that yearâ€™s budget, which the NCDC directed should be utilised for cocoa processing. Also, a loan of N200 billion was approved by the Central Bank of Nigeria for agricultural development. Curiously enough, cocoa, which is the nationâ€™s number one tree crop, was not included in the list of beneficiary crops.
â€œIt is also painful that throughout last year, there was no forum for us (cocoa stakeholders) to meet and discuss the issue because NCDC had either deliberately or inadvertently failed to summon a national meeting for close to two years now to deliberate on the future and fortune of cocoa in the country. Sadly, Nigeria is now ebbing in her cocoa production level while nations hitherto behind us in the production are fast taking the central stage hence, this convention,â€ he said.
Stakeholders noted that every seed of cocoa is a money spinner. And every bag of it is wealth. No wonder why countries such as Ghana, Cote Dâ€™Voire, Cameroon and Brazil still earning their revenue through cocoa which they produced to sell to other countries. Greece, they said, is known for her wheat, Holland for milk and beef, Spain for wine, Ghana for cocoa, Brazil for cocoa and tea.
The Osun State Deputy Governor and Chairman, National Cocoa Day Planning Committee, Erelu Olusola Obada, therefore, called on the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to come up with measures that could stem the emerging drift of cocoa growers to other crops which are not valuable as cocoa. She also want the Federal Government to make policies that will help in the revival of the cocoa industry.
In hisÂ lead paper, â€œThe Global Economic Meltdown (GEM): The Role of Cocoa in reviving the Nigerian Economyâ€ , the Country Manager, IITA/STCP/FFS, Dr Chris Okafor, said that while the price of oil is dwedling, the prices of cocoa, and other agricultural products are doing well at the international market.
â€œWithin agriculture, cocoa is among the most significant sub_sector with roughly 240, 000 metric tones of cocoa produced in 2009 by approximately 200, 000 households and pumping more than N110 billion into the national economy. Cocoa economy (industry) accounts for over 30 per cent of our agricultural export earnings. The contribution stands it out clearly as a major economic driver of the country which should not be ignored if we must move the economy forwardâ€.
Okafor said that while the meltdown had negative impact on Nigerian industries and services, especially the banks, the cocoa sector absorbed the shock, without anybody losing his job along the cocoa value chain. The international price of cocoa has gone up appreciably and the sector has brought in more foreign exchange for the country.
The Deputy Governor of Abia State, Comrade Chris Akomas, said he was not happy that the Federal Government is not doing enough to promote cocoa development in the country. He saId that farmers are not producing enough to enable the country meet the rising demand at the international market. He wants state and Federal Governments to make land available to farmers by giving them Certificates of Occupancy. The Federal Government, he said, must also make fertilisers and other farming input available to farmers so that their outputs can increase.
He urged the Minister of Agriculture to invest more in cocoa production and processing to ease the over dependence on oil.
The stakeholders also believe that the issue of inadequate utilisation of extension workersÂ is a major missing link militating against the growth and development of cocoa in the country.
TheyÂ said that both small and large_scale farmers in the country were not receiving adequate extension service delivery in terms of research findings and technology transfer due to the dearth of extension workers.
They saidÂ that the Federal Government has deviated from the concept of extension workers complementing the activities of research institutes by ensuring effective technology transfer, soil testing and monitoring of farmers in the rural areas.
â€œToday, there is nobody to impart modern knowledge into farmers, nobody to teach them fertiliser application, choice of seeds and soil testing,â€ he said.He observed that most of the rural farmers were not exposed to research findings, adding that such findings had remained shelf materials, thereby limiting the activities of extension workers.
The stakeholdersÂ noted that extension work had been recognised globally as an important tool for promoting agricultural development and the vehicle for transferring modern technology to rural farmers.
They , therefore, urged the government to pay adequate attention to strengthening extension work, stressing that it was critical to improved productivity, agricultural growth and development.
In a communiquÃ© at the end of the convention, stakeholders noted among others that cocoa production is declining across the country and that there is no realistic statistical information on cocoa production, processing and consumption in the country and called on the Minister of Agriculture to immediately revive the operations of NCDC to ensure timely intervention in the cocoa industry.
They also want the Minister of Commerce and Industry to urgently promote cocoa consumption and efficient marketing systems both in the country and abroad.
To encourage young farmers to become involved in cocoa farming, the stakeholders want the activities of the SCDC to be revived and increased.
They want access to credit and financing options for cocoa farmers from CBN Credit Guarantee Scheme and other windows of opportunitiesÂ Â to be explored by cocoa farmers.
That a dedicated fund for coca production be set aside by the federal Ministry of AgricultureÂ Â to be managed by NCDC.
The Convection called on Cocoa Producing states to grant waivers to cocoa farmers to obtain titles and loans for cocoa productions.