Cocoa farmers eye N1.5 billion processing plant in the southwest
Oith a renewed effort to revive cocoa farming, farmers in southern Nigeria are putting in place a structure that will allow the region to benefit from a product that gives them a comparative advantage.
The region is also the largest plantain producer, but the added value has not been developed to benefit farmers.
To achieve this, the Cocoa and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria (CPFAN) is set to set up N1.5 billion cocoa and plantain processing factories in three southwestern states.
CPFAN National President, Chief Ayodele Ojo, said the association would cite factories in llaramokin in Ondo state, lle-Ife in Osun state and Iperu in Ogun. They also plan to build mega-processing factories in the country’s six geopolitical zones in the near future.
Speaking to reporters from Akure, the president of CPFAN said the association was looking to merge cocoa and plantain into a single dietary product that would be suitable for consumption by all ages.
He said to achieve this, they have already partnered with Department of Food and Science Technology at Obafemi Awolowo University (OUA), Ile-Ife and Federal University of Technology Akure (FUTA), to help facilitate the search.
Speaking further, he said some of their goals include building the capacity of cocoa and plantain farmers on how to meet international market standards for both products.
“It aims to meet the demand of local and foreign industries for raw materials based on cocoa and plantain.
“Replace the old varieties of cocoa and plantain with improved varieties so that yield increases, waiting times are shortened and the population per hectare increased, as well as bringing together all the players in the cocoa sector so that the broken chains to be repaired and giant strides made towards self-sufficiency in cocoa and plantain,” he said.
He said he met the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar on May 25, 2022 in his office to brief him on the association’s activities and plans.
He said the minister promised to support them, as they also appealed for the help of all concerned government officials, dignitaries, philanthropists and well-meaning Nigerians to come together and provide the necessary support so that the association, various actors in the value chain and the country in general would be better off.
Meanwhile, the Cross River State government has started the distribution of cocoa plantations for smallholder farmers in the state to increase availability.
This action, according to the special adviser on the development of cocoa in the state, Oscar Ofuka, aims to ensure food security for lower and middle class workers.
He revealed that the smallholder programs aim to separate cocoa plantations for farmers to earn money and, at the same time, ensure food security.
Speaking at the event, Ofuka said, “We decided to embark on the smallholder scheme, where we segmented the cocoa plantations into hectares and distributed equally to farmers and government officials.
“The idea is that after retirement they can settle down and have enough security for their children, as well as food on the table.”
He said the main thing was to encourage more officials to grow cocoa, pointing out that the government had created an enabling environment for people to become millionaires.
“This flag-off is to encourage officials to engage in mass cocoa farming. This is because the enabling environment is fair enough.
“Today cocoa thrives everywhere, and what we have can grow, even on a rock.
“The kick off for this exercise is enough awareness that the only way to secure our future is to get into massive cocoa farming,” he added.
Meanwhile, the state government has donated 50,000 cocoa plants to state officials and smallholder farmers.
Oscar Ofuka said the goal was to encourage everyone to dabble in cocoa farming to ensure product availability and increase income.
Secondly, he said that the country, which is currently ranked number two in Africa, has a very fertile landmass that can grow all varieties of cocoa to be able to overtake Ivory Coast as the largest cocoa producer in Africa. .
Ofuka said the state government is also allocating segmented hectares of plantations in the state to officials and farmers.
He said: “If Côte d’Ivoire, whose population density and landmass are not as large as Nigeria, can become one of the main cocoa producing countries in Africa, Nigeria has the chance to take the lead. relay given our best factors if we can take advantage of the government. encouragement.
In Edo State, cocoa farmers have identified lack of access to finance, seedlings, land inputs, among others, as the challenges hampering cocoa farming in the state.
One of the farmers, Iyare Harrison, who spoke to our reporter, said the lack of a cocoa board in the state is also affecting agriculture.
“We have many challenges faced by cocoa farmers in the state, but the main one is access to funds and inputs.
Harrison, who owns six hectares of cocoa plantation in Egbeta community, Ovia North East local government of Edo state, said the challenge of sowing was affecting their yields as they hardly got better results; and they go to Ondo State to get them.
“We don’t have access to improved hybrid seedlings, so we always buy the old ones to plant them.
“We are getting seedlings from the Owena River Basin, Akure, Ondo State and the Cocoa Research Institute. Recently, the Edo State government was selling seedlings to us. We also buy from local farmers,” he said.
He said the low knowledge of farmers in cocoa farming also affects them because the conventional method which they know very well is changing rapidly.
“Farmers don’t have the knowledge of modern technology in the 21st century. Access to land for cultivation is another challenge for cocoa farmers as obtaining land for cultivation is becoming difficult in the state. We also lack modern equipment and technology like irrigation that would have allowed us to do well instead of depending on rainfall, which often affects newly planted seedlings.
“We face the challenge of pest control, which often leads to low yield, because the pesticides and fungicides used to control the pests are very expensive. A bundle of Black Mushrooms costs N39,000 and can only cover one patch. To effectively control pests on your farm, you must continue to spray it every 21 days. And you might have to do it like 10 times before the end of the season,” he explained.
He said extension service was very weak in the state, adding that they only get extension services from non-governmental organizations, such as the Niger Delta Partnership Initiative (PIND) and the German government GIZ.
He lamented that they have not received loans or grants from the state and federal government, as well as the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), adding, “The government’s anchor borrower scheme federal government is only interested in other cultures”.
Harrison explained that there was a market for cocoa, but middlemen in the market were undercutting farmers in terms of price.
“A kilo of cocoa costs 1,000 naira because there is no cocoa commission in Edo State. It is more expensive in Ondo state because they have a cocoa council. The intermediaries deceive us,” he added.
He called on the state government to set up a cocoa board so that they can also scale the commodity instead of going to Ondo, adding that this would allow them to make profit like their counterparts.
He also called on the government and non-governmental organizations to come to the aid of cocoa farmers in the area of pest control.
For his part, Adekunle Samson lamented that the activities of loggers in the forest where they carry out their agricultural activities have become a problem.
“The loggers destroy our crops because they usually cut down trees in our cocoa plantations, and in the process of cutting and sawing the wood, they always destroy the crops,” he alleged.
He said getting fertilizer for farming was a major challenge for them as the price is almost above their wealth.
“NPK fertilizer costs N18,500 while urea costs about N20,000, and it is kind of hard to get,” he added.
He called on the state government to empower cocoa farmers by providing loans and grants to enable them to improve.
By Bola Ojuola, Akure, Eyo Charles, Calabar & Usman A. Bello, Benin