Dayo Johnson Akure
Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo state has assured that the state will soon attain its position as the heart of cocoa production in the country.
Akeredolu, who said massive production of cocoa is very important to his administration, disclosed that over 10,000 hectares of land have been cleared at Jugbere in Owo Local Government Area solely for the cultivation of cocoa.
He said this when the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Nanono visited him at the Government House, Alagbaka, Akure.
The governor explained that the cocoa revolution was supposed to have kicked off in the state, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari was billed to visit Jugbere before the dissolution of the last Federal Executive Council.
“Cocoa production is very important to us to the extent that we have a cocoa village which is in Jugbere.
“Initially we wanted to do 2000 hectare and the CBN came and said we should not do less than 10,000. It is large. We have cleared the whole place. We have started planting.
“Initially before you came on board, we were talking about the cocoa revolution. The President was supposed to come and start the revolution here in Ondo state.
“The President wanted to come and see the cocoa value chain in the state.
Akeredolu, who said the state prides itself in the production of quality cocoa, added that his administration has been able to revive the chocolate factory in Idanre which now produces quality and rich chocolate.
“When we came in, the factory was dead and abandoned. We resolved to revive it. It took us some time. About three months ago, they got their NAFDAC certificate. We pride ourselves in the production of quality cocoa and now chocolate,”
The Governor said that his administration has distributed over 500,000 improved cocoa seedlings, saying no fewer than 250,000 cocoa trees would be standing fruitfully in the state presently.
“Cocoa is not only our area of interest. We are interested in the palm. We have termed it red gold. We have given land to the investors. The red gold has caught the interest of ADFB.
“We also have the Okitipupa oil palm. It is one of the largest in the country. But before we came in, it was abandoned. There were litigations. But we have settled. We will invite investors. The government might not be best suited to handle that kind of venture.
Earlier, the minister said Ondo was famous for its massive production of quality cocoa.
He said the present administration of President Mohammadu Buhari is interested in reversing the downward trend in cocoa production in Nigeria despite the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the world economy.
Nanono said: “As you are all aware, Nigeria in the 1960s and 1970s was a major cocoa producer and it supplied most of the world’s demand.
He added that ” Cocoa was a major revenue and foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. It provided millions of jobs for the people, especially those in the southwest region.”