Cocoa processors have lamented the huge neglect of Nigeria’s cocoa industry, noting that local processors are still faced with the challenge of competing with foreign exporters who do not add value to the nation’s flagship commodity.
The Chairman, Cocoa Processors Association of Nigeria (COPAN), Mr. Akin Olusuyi, explained that the processing sector of the cocoa industry which he described as a vital link for cocoa value chain in Nigeria is yet to be given the necessary attention it requires.
Olusuyi, during a press conference to express the association’s concerns over the poor state of the nation’s foremost non-oil export earner, added that it is not rocket science that industrialising the nation’s agriculture is the only way to go for Nigeria to join the league of industrialised nations of the world.
He noted that the nation’s agriculture sector has remained in its rudimentary stage because active players in the industry do not add any value to Nigeria’s agricultural commoditiesâ€Ž.
COPAN boss however called on the federal government to create an intervention fund for agricultural industries while also providing new working capital, saying the same model was deployed in the textile industry.
According to him, “There must also be a mechanism in place to checkmate â€Žcharlatans from accessing this fund. People with no business in value addition must not get access to this fund. This is the area where employment can be generated and where capital investment can be deepened.
“If we do not add value to our agricultural produce we will become and remain a commodity supplier to factories abroad thereby exporting the jobs we have localised. It is disheartening that even up till now that attention is not being paid to industrialise our agricultural sector. No nation can develop by exporting its job opportunities to other nations. Cocoa is the singular agricultural product that contributes more than any other commodity into the non-oil export earning into this nation.”
Olusuyi noted that Nigeria with a current installed capacity of about 250,000 metric tons per annum, only processes 15 per cent of its installed capacity while the other 85 per cent are exported.
He lamented over the decay of processing factories in the country, saying that the only functioning processing plant in Nigeria is foreign-owned.
He said: “The installed capacity of cocoa in Nigeria is about 250,000 tons per annum. Every grain of cocoa that Nigeria â€Žcan produce can be processed in the country without a grain going out if the economic environment is right. I have a factory which produces about 30,000 tons, but last year, we did less than 1,000 tons and this year, we have not done up to 500 tons. The only processing factory running in the country is foreign-owned. Every Nigerian processing factory today is agonising. For every ton of cocoa being exported, we are exporting two jobs.â€Ž”
The cocoa merchant urged the federal government to provide the necessary policy framework to encourage local production, pointing out that inconsistent government policies has made most of the indigenous cocoa processors record huge debts of over N50 billionâ€Ž.
â€Ž”There is only one direction to economic development which is industrialisation. Unless the government is serious by starting with rural development to attract youths to the farm, we will be day dreaming. The cocoa industry needs a targeted policy aimed towards the farmers to make the rural development conducive,” he added.