Chibuike Nwabuko, Abuja
Plans are in top gear for Nigeria to dethrone Cote D’Ivoire and others as the world’s largest cocoa producer and exporter.
This is even as the Federal Government is very confident that the West African nation has the capacity to topple six other countries ahead of her on the log.
Speaking during the inauguration of Cocoa Re-launch Committee, with Olayiwola Oluwole as Chairman at the headquarters of the Ministry in Abuja, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbeh, said the government’s move to realise this lofty ambition within the shortest time was possible.
He added that the inauguration of the Oluwole-led Committee will move certainly Nigeria to the top from its current seventh position in world cocoa producing countries’ ranking.
“We are looking at planting 20 million trees yearly in the next four years in 23 states across the country. Let me tell you, the whole of the South-East and South-South is cocoa territory,and southern North-Central and even South Adamawa and Borno states, too, are available for us to grow cocoa.
“In-house here, we can say it is a shame for us to be number seven on the list of cocoa producers in the world, but we must reverse it to be at the top, and that is why we are here. This is the time to do it, and no other time than to do it now.
“Cocoa can be grown in many parts of the country. We are going to have cocoa relaunch campaign in March (in) Ondo State, and we want all cocoa farmers from cocoa producing states to be present.
“We cannot afford to remain seventh cocoa producing nation. We are going to take over from Cote D’Ivoire as the largest cocoa producer in the world.
“We can earn huge foreign exchange from cocoa because oil and gas has done damage to our economy and we have to go back to agriculture to rescue the economy.
“You have to come up with materials that could be used for cocoa production because cocoa can be grown in many parts of the country and presently there are 27 states that can grow cocoa. The cocoa farmers need to be enlightened on what they could do to improve on what they have been doing in the industry,” Ogbeh said.
The Minister also expressed confidence in the newly inaugurated Committee, and charged it not to hesitate to come up with useful approach to move Nigeria’s cocoa producing capacity higher than it has been.
He also stated that farmers are to be in charge of cocoa and not government.
Speaking on behalf of the Committee, the Chairman, Olayiwola Oluwole, promised to repay the confidence reposed in the members, who are drawn from both the public and private sectors.
He also promised to work assiduously work to ensure that Nigeria recovers her lost glory of being the largest producer of the commodity in the world and also number one cocoa exporting country in the world.