Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State on Friday in Akure distributed 400,000 cocoa seedlings and 25,000 cashew seedlings to farmers in the state.
Akeredolu said that the state government was making effective policies and actions to return the state to its leadership position in cocoa farming in the country.
He promised that his administration would make loans available to farmers and partner with banks to make loans easy and accessible.
According to the governor, the distribution was a partnership initiative of the state government and Federal Government.
The governor urged youths in the state to embrace farming as a profession, saying it was only agriculture that could rescue Nigeria out of economic problems.
Akeredolu noted that the government was embarking on training of cocoa farmers, using modern form of fermentation and drying.
He noted that the development of the cocoa value chain was key to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, hence all hands must be on deck to achieve the goal.
Akeredolu said that the state government was also promoting local consumption of cocoa drinks and chocolate through sensitisation of its citizenry on health and wealth benefits.
Also speaking, Mr Adegboyega Adefarati, state Commissioner for Agriculture, said that there was need to sustain the position of the state as a front runner of cocoa production in Nigeria.
Adefarati noted that the state government gave the hybrid cocoa and cashew seedlings free to farmers.
He stated that the gesture would go a long way to assist farmers in rehabilitation and replanting of their various plantations in the state.
According to him, the exercise is a prelude to big event of cocoa rebirth initiative, which is aimed at addressing the production and distribution of improved cocoa varieties.
The commissioner said that the present administration in the state had resolved to establish 2,000 hectares of land of hybrid cocoa plantation at Ijugbere in Owo Local Government Area of the state.
He added that the plantation would be allocated to youth farmers, saying the efforts would sustain leadership position of the state in cocoa production.
Adefarati, therefore, urged the beneficiaries to make use of the seedlings to enhance productivity.
Similarly, Mr Akin Olotu, Senior Special Assistant to the governor on Agriculture and Agric Business, said that the real wealth was inherent in farming, hence the need for the gesture.
Olotu noted that food security was the best security that any government could give to its citizens.
The SSA added that the best source of foreign exchange for Nigeria was agriculture, through cocoa and other tree crops.
” No amount of rice and millet can make us to compete with Europe and America.
“But our area of strength is largely cash crops, which cocoa is number one and the Akeredolu administration is improving its value chain.
“We want Ondo State to be the face of cocoa in Africa, we have to create jobs and wealth through it,” he stated.
According to him, no fewer than 5,000 modern cocoa farmers will spring up in the state.