1st National Cocoa Festival: Cocoa Farmers, Akeredolu, Ooni, Minister, others Brainstorm for better productivity

It was a colourful event as stakeholders and farmers from the cocoa producing states  gathered in Akure, the Ondo state capital for the the first national cocoa festival.

The carnival like event was  organised by the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, CFAN.

It was  attended by the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr Muhammad Abubakar as well as his Industry, Trade & Investment Counterpart, Otunba Adeniyi Adebayo and representatives of key stakeholders such as the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, (CAN) and International Cocoa Organization, (ICCO).

While addressing the gathering, the National President of CFAN, Comrade Adeola Adegoke noted that the power of collaboration and partnership being enjoyed in the industry today, gave birth to the program.

Adegoke said, “It is important to improve the livelihood of smallholder cocoa Farmers in Nigeria through finance, production, productivity, training, workshops, improved infrastructure in our cocoa communities, planet protection and sustainable eco system cocoa practices in partnership with the cocoa supply chain stakeholders which motivated us to gold the 1st Nigeria Cocoa Farmers Day at tbr International Conference Center, University of Ibadan, Oyo State on the 18th of October, 2019”.

“However, the need to create an inclusiveness amongst the cocoa value chain stakeholders and considering our national interest and the International demand for a sustainable cocoa that takes into consideration our planet Earth and the livelihood of our smallholder cocoa farmers across the cocoa industry informed our decision to collaborate and change the theme to “National Cocoa Festival” in this year 2022. This is to give all players in the sector the ownership and partnership to achieve our national collective goal that transcends across the entire cocoa value chain in Nigeria.

“Let me use this medium to inform our stakeholders, distinguished guests and great cocoa farmers that the Association will commence the process of the enumeration/bio -data collection of all the cocoa farmers in Nigeria. This task will be done in collaboration with our cocoa value chain stakeholders across the cocoa producing states and our cocoa communities traditional rules.

“We believe that after the completion of the enumeration exercise, it will enable our investors, policy makers, researchers, the Academia, merchants, exporters, buyers etc, to know all the information they need about our cocoa bean, cocoa plantation environment, inputs/GAP, sizes, cocoa variety, sex, gender, labour parameter, ecosystem compliance activities in our cocoa plantations”.

Adegoke appreciated the Governor of Ondo State, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, SAN, for his giant strides in the State.

Also speaking,  the Ooni of Ife, Oba Enitan Adeyeye Ogunwusi, announced the  launch of  commercial bank for cocoa farmers, saying that it is important for the association to have its own bank.

The Traditional ruler who was made the grand patron of the association today noted that there would be a new dawn fot the association as the membership would now be driven in a digital format.

He added that it is time for the youths to take over and would do everything youthful in cocoa production to make it digital for transformation of cocoa farmers as they must stop suffering.

Ooni, who couldn’t hide his excitement and happiness opined that he is committed to work with the association and everything will be done with ease.

While soliciting for more support from the members, he urged them to be straightforward and trustworthy in everything they do.

Speaking through his  Senior Special Assistant on Agriculture, Pastor Akin Olotu, Governor Oluwarotimi Akeredolu noted that “the theme of the festival cannot be more apposite as it is a clear indication that all stakeholders in the sector need to come together as a strong and willing force to salvage the fluctuating fortune in our production level in the cocoa industry in Nigeria and also a clarion call for all of us to synergise with a view to bringing back the lost glory in the industry.

“It is interesting to note that from available records, Nigeria produced and exported 310,000 metric tones of cocoa in 1970/1971 but in 2020/2021, fifty years after, Nigeria was still struggling to produce 280,000 metric tonnes.

“This is indeed a matter of concern. Quality wise, we are no better. Nigeria’s cocoa beans which used to be of very super grade with which other countries’ cocoa are blended has since drastically diminished in quality”, the Governor said.

Governor Akeredolu charged the stakeholders in the Nigeria cocoa value chain to be united to think outside the box, work for increased funding and speak with one voice to move our cocoa production forward.

The Minister Of Agriculture And Rural Development, Dr. Muhammad Mahmood Abubakar stated that it is now obvious that we cannot continue to rely on Crude oil to develop our economy, going by the instability of crude oil prices due to the Russian-Ukraine war.

The Minister who was represented by Southwest Zonal Director, Mrs Omolara Abimbola-Oguntuyi stressed that Cocoa production and Marketing occupies a pre-eminent position in our recently launched “National Agricultural Technology and Innovation Policy document (NATIP)”. “If there is no production there will be nothing for farmers to take to the market.

“Diversification is no longer a myth but a reality. In this regard, Agriculture holds the key to our collective survival as a people both in terms of job creation, income generation, food, and nutritional security as well as foreign exchange earnings. Living Income Differential.”