To enhance the contribution of the non-oil sector to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product GDP, the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC), in collaboration with the Abia State Government, Wednesday, organised a one-day capacity building workshop in Umuahia, the state capital to sensitise farmers on how to increase cocoa production for export.
About 600 participating farmers and stakeholders in cocoa business in Abia, numbering over 2,000 comprising farmers, merchants, and exporters were targeted to benefit from the workshop, which also had participants from Imo, Akwa Ibom, and Cross River states.
Top of the issues discussed bothered on various challenges facing cocoa export, for which stakeholders were equipped with current standards and quality techniques that conform to buyers’ requirements especially in the European Union market.
Concern was expressed that Abia State, which ranked third among the 21 cocoa producing states in the country, fell to the eight position, while Nigeria now ranked fourth among the global major cocoa producing nations, and by this, contributing only six per cent of the world’s expected 3.5 million tonnes of dry cocoa beans.
As at April 2017, cocoa output was 1,148,992 tonnes from Cote d’Ivoire; 835,466 in Ghana; and 367,000 from Nigeria.
Some of major players in agri-business had “expressed fears that Nigeria may lose up to N1trillion by Year 2020, if nothing is done to grow the product massively.”
Addressing the workshop, the NEPC Chief Executive Officer, Abdullahi Sidi-Aliyu, represented by the Director, Product Development Department, William Ezeagu, said: “Nigeria is yet to explore her potential in cocoa industry in the continent when compared with countries such as Cot d’Ivoire, and Ghana.
He said it was this scenario that prompted NEPC’s readiness to partner with state governments, NGOs, farmers, and cocoa exporters to work out programmes that would create the desired value chain in the sector.
He asserted that “Nigerian Cocoa has consistently remained profitable for several decades and rated one of the best in the world because of its flavor.”
Ezeagu listed the challenges facing the sector to include low Cocoa prices, poor productivity, and vulnerability to price down turns due to volatile commodity markets, limited knowledge of new/efficient farming techniques, poor or lack of organisational capacity among farmers’ groups, and poor pest control and many others.
He added that these “have continued to hamper Nigeria’s ability to command fair market share from the product internationally,” adding, “Nigeria’s earnings from cocoa and cocoa products accounted for $338.17million in 2015, and $242.23million in 2016, which amounted to 20.8 and 20.13 per cent respectively in the corresponding years.”
Abia State Governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, represented by his deputy, Ude Oko Chukwu, declared the workshop open, noting that there was no better time than now, to organise the workshop because of the downturn in the national economy due to the dwindling global crude oil prices.