The Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) has commended the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu for diversifing the economy through the enhancement of cocoa production in the state.
The Executive Director of NEPC, Mr Abdullahi Sidi-Aliyu, gave the commendation at a capacity building programme in Akure, the state’s capital.
“I want to express the council’s appreciation to the executive governor of Ondo State for giving utmost attention to cocoa production.
“As the largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria, Ondo State has a lot to gain from the production, processing and export of cocoa and its derivatives,’’ he said.
Sidi-Aliyu, who was represented by Mr Sam Oyeyipo, a Deputy Director in the council, said that NEPC would ensure that Nigeria derived maximum benefits from the exportation of cocoa and its products through collaboration of all stakeholders in the cocoa industry
He said that the workshop was aimed at enhancing the quality of Nigerian cocoa and its appeal in the international market.
“We are emphasising quality and not only production of cocoa, and the council has some intervention programmes for increasing cocoa output.Also, this workshop is to sensitise cocoa farmers and dealers, while gathering opinion on what is expected of NEPC as regards cocoa processing and marketing.
On efforts made to boost partnership with stakeholders he disclosed that “NEPC is currently working with Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko, (AAUA) on ways of increasing the production and distribution of cocoa seedlings to farmers, while building their capacity on improved cocoa processing to achieve premium cocoa exports’’ .
Sidi-Aliyu said that the Federal Government, through the NEPC, had developed a plan to grow the export of non-oil exports.
The Executive Director noted that Nigeria’s cocoa production had been competitive until 1984 when the country’s cocoa production started declining drastically.
“As at 2015, while other African countries could boast of cocoa production level of 1.7 million metric tons, Nigeria’s was hovering around 220,000 to 250,000 metric tons per annum,’’ he said.
Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor of AAUA, Prof. Igbekele Ajibefun, said that the choice of cocoa as one of the 13 national strategic export products was a testimony of the crop’s relevance to the economic growth of the nation.
Ajibefun said that the workshop was an attempt to motivate all the stakeholders in the cocoa industry to “look through the rear view mirror’’.
He therefore stressed the need for adequate funding of the cocoa production initiative by making loans available to cocoa farmers.
On his part, Chief Timehin Adelegbe, the Ondo State Commissioner for Commerce, Industries and Cooperatives, urged the NEPC to collaborate more with relevant agencies to give financial assistance to the youths, with a view to encouraging them to go into farming.
Adelegbe also urged the participants of the workshop to examine all the challenges facing Nigeria’s cocoa production objectively and come up with plausible recommendations that would assist the government and stakeholders in efforts to improve cocoa production.
He said that this was the only way to ensure that Nigeria’s cocoa became more acceptable in the international market.