The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Muhammad Nanono, has disclosed the Federal Government’s moves to boost cocoa production and export with jute bag-producing factories.
He made the disclosure when the leadership of Cocoa Association of Nigeria, CAN, paid him a courtesy visit at his office in Abuja. He maintained that establishment of jute bag industries across the country and other efforts made by government will ensure Nigerian cocoa meets international packaging standards, preservation, certification, and acceptance thereby earning more foreign exchange for farmers and exporters.
He further stated that the jute bag factories will also be for other sundry agricultural produce and assured stakeholders in the cocoa value chain of government’s support as his Ministry would seek collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, Budget, and National Planning to ensure that appropriate policy measures and counterpart funding were put in place to fast track the setting up of jute bag factories across the nation as well as commence the cultivation of Kenaf, the raw material for the production of jute bags which can be grown in any part of the country. He said: “Cocoa is one of the commodities being promoted by the present administration in its drive to diversify the economy. “The ministry is eager to support the farmers with the distribution of free agricultural inputs and training to enhance the capacity of cocoa farmers in the country.”
The Minister also made it known that “The ministry recently rolled out disease resistant and early yielding seedlings developed by the Cocoa Research Institute, Ibadan which starts yielding within 30 months of cultivation. “These seedlings with other inputs were distributed to farmers in major cocoa-producing states where 300,000 cartoons of Ultimax – plus fungicides, Hydrocarbon jute bags, collapsible driers, cocoa pods, and more were shared to enhance the capacity of cocoa farmers.” Nanono, expressed readiness to support and partner the association so as to boost the cocoa value chain towards achieving increased production, create jobs, and generate revenue.
Also speaking, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, stressed that with the agricultural policy put in place, the present administration is poised to building an agribusiness ecosystem that will solve the challenges in the agricultural sector through partnership with state governments to achieve food security, export substitution, job creation, and economic diversification.
Apart from crude oil, cocoa has been one of the major foreign exchange earners in Nigeria. Meanwhile, the National President, CAN, Mufutau Abolarinwa, while appreciating support from the Ministry urged the government to establish a special credit guarantee scheme for members of the association for expansion, development, and sup-scale cocoa production beyond the level it is. According to Abolarinwa, grants and subventions from relevant agencies like Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, CRIN, and others will enable the association have access to quality cocoa pods, inputs, and equipment needed to add value to productivity and profitability. He said: “The association has successfully organized workshops and seminars in collaboration with CRIN, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, and the State Ministries across the cocoa-producing States with the aim of improving the quality of cocoa for export and comply with the European Union regulations on pesticide maximum residue.”