Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The federal government will draw the cocoa industry roadmap in order to attract investments to the sector by holding the firar International Cocoa Summit from August 28 to 31 in Abuja.
The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, who announced this wednesday, said the summit would target raising the national cocoa production output to 500,000 metric tonnes per year from 2021.
Abubakar said the summit is intended to open up global opportunities to local and foreign investors to invest in the countryâ€™s cocoa industry.
â€œGovernment is determined to invest in agriculture by resuscitating the cocoa sector. It is also hoped that the summit will demonstrate clearly to the international community Nigeriaâ€™s desire to assume leadership position in the cocoa sector. The target is to ensure processing of at least 50 percent and the consumption of about 20 per cent of the annual production by 2012,â€ Abubakar said.
The summit is organised by the trade ministry in association with Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), African Ex-Im Bank and governments of the cocoa producing states.
The cocoa sector used to sustain Nigeriaâ€™s economy before the advent of oil in the 70s and 80s.
The industry has suffered unfortunate vicissitudes resulting in sharp drop of annual production from 420,000mts in the 60s to 300,000 mts and further to 192,000mts in 2015.
Nigeria has nosedived to the seventh position in the world in cocoa production as against the fourth position it maintained some years ago.
The minister said the summit would be to revitalise and reposition the cocoa subsector as part of governmentâ€™s commitment to industrialisation and diversification of the nationâ€™s economy from the oil sector to the non-oil sector, particularly agriculture and solid minerals.
The Vice President of ICCO, Sayina Riman, said Nigeriaâ€™s potential in the cocoa value chain is huge, adding that cocoa is a strategic commodity for national development if harnessed.
Riman said though two million Nigerian families are engaged in the cocoa cultivating sector and the local consumption market is high, productivity in the sector is unfortunately low and undeveloped.
Meanwhile, the government will also organise the African SMEs Expo to provide access to market and enable over 1,000 small scale entrepreneurs build their capacity in production and job creation.
Over 20 countries, according to the chairman of the organising committee, Abdulkadir Musa, have indicated interest in the African SMEs Expo slated for Lagos from August 15 to18.
Some of the countries include China, India, South Africa, Mauritania, Tunisia, Sudan and Egypt.
The event would brainstorm on ways to promote the export of Nigerian products. It would also offer a platform for SMEs to appreciate the challenges of the global market.