Barring any unforeseen circumstance, the Cross River State Government is set to commission an ultra-modern cocoa processing industry.
On completion, the facility would be producing about 120, 000 metric tonnes of cocoa per hour(MT/hr). In addition, when completed it would help boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) and reduce the state’s dependence on federation account revenue.
The Chairman, Cross River State Cocoa Board, Dr. Oscar Ofuka, disclosed this during an interview with journalists in Lagos.
He expressed the desire of the Governor of the state, Prof Ben Ayade, to run the economy with revenue coming from cocoa, being one of the 14 cocoa producing states.
According to him: “His dream is fast becoming a reality today with the ultra-modern premier cocoa processing industry, that on completion, would crush about 120, 000 metric tonnes of cocoa per hour(MT/hr), and that is exactly our target.”
Ofuka, said with N20 billion set aside for agriculture, cocoa has a larger share to lead the cocoa revolution in the state and to move the state at par with the other countries totally dependent on cocoa for their economy like Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cameroun.
“We intend to produce cocoa related products that would be locally consumed by indigenes; and make sure that the consumption of cocoa is made compulsory in our primary, secondary and university to drive demand and supply of the product.
“Every effort geared at this initiative is about boosting production; right now the state government is aggressively acquiring thousands of hectares of land mass across the 18 local government areas to plant cocoa.
“In a particular LGA, we acquired about 3800 hectares of land and have developed that as a new plantation,” he said.
He commended President Mohammadu Buhari’s focus in developing the agricultural sector.
“The sector was used in funding infrastructure in Nigeria, before oil was discovered, unfortunately it was relegated to the background. Now that Mr. President has decided to push its weight on it would become a mainstream of Nigerian income,” he added.
On his part, the National President, Cocoa farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Adeola Adegoke, noted the need to improve the country’s cocoa quality and production per hectare which he said was less than 400 kilograms (Kg).
“So there should be enough strategy towards bringing our cocoa farmers on-board, encouraging them to produce more and rekindling investment confidence of our farmers.
“Nigeria’s quality is of low level currently, but we believe our farmers would engage in agronomic practices that would increase our production,” he added.
In spite of attempts by the number one producer, Ivory Coast, to deliberately cut cocoa production to control prices, analysts say favourable weather helped the crop to mature in decent conditions, which was expected to hit 2.12 million tonnes from 1.96 million tonnes in 2017/18.
Second biggest producer Ghana was predicted to produce 950,000 tonnes, up 47,000 tonnes from the previous season. Nigeria was expected to produce 250,000 tonnes in 2018/19, down 10,000 tonnes from earlier estimation.
Meanwhile cocoa production was predicted to hit a record high of 4.85 million tonnes in 2019 despite uncertain times for the cocoa market.