By Oludele Taiwo
Nigerians have been charged to create a culture around cocoa and chocolate in the manner in which ‘jollof rice’ is created into becoming part of our culture. The Oloni of Eti-Oni, Osun State and the founder of International Cocoa Diplomacy (ICD), Oba Dokun Thompson, gave the charge in an interview stating that after a while, after several uses of rice, Nigerians created fried rice from it, created jollof rice from it and different other products of rice and that, chocolate can also be done in that manner. “After a while, after several uses, we created fried rice from it, we created jollof rice, we created coconut rice, we created all sorts of things and today, when you go into some stalls, you will see different flavours of rice mixture. Chocolate can also be done in that manner”.
He lamented that Nigeria, at the moment, converts only 0.1 per cent of its cocoa production output into chocolate through a good number of small batch chocolate makers, stressing that difficult environment and lack of access to capital and packaging are some obstacles hindering increase in chocolate production. Oba Thompson stated that increasing Nigeria’s chocolate production was easy and possible, but that Nigerians are yet to understand the value of cocoa consumption and the fact that the primary and most popular consumption product of cocoa is chocolate, saying “Chocolate is defined by the origin, these are parts of the attributes used to define the value of chocolate, we tried to define the Nigerian chocolate based on our vibrancy in colours, from our multi-ethnicity, religiosity and others”.
The royal father, however, stated that Nigeria has the capacity to increase its production to about 1.5 million tonnes annually, consume most of it, and also supply the rest of the African continent before exporting to Europe or America, adding that Nigeria is losing so much in not tapping into the potentials in the chocolate industry. He said part of the aim of founding the ICD, was to help the country bridge the gap, while creating the culture and also giving the opportunity to create partnership, collaborations and at the same time, an opportunity for people to have a better understanding, to create fully-grown standard that will address issues around sustainability, climate stuff and other issues.