Major players in the cocoa industry have lamented that the greater potential that has remained largely unexploited lies in value addition. The stakeholders, at the International Cocoa and Chocolate Forum in Lagos, said that much of the nation’s cocoa is exported as raw beans with limited local processing. This, according to them, calls for a deliberate effort to increase value addition so as to boost the nation’s economy.
The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Nigeria Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Abba Bello, explained that over the past five years, the bank had emphasised the need to boost value added exports through its PAVE initiative, which means Produce, Add Value and Export. He said what is more significant is the need for Nigeria to add value to its cocoa exports as a major step towards maximising the benefits of investments in the sector. According to him, “All hands must be on deck amongst all stakeholders, including policy makers, researchers, the organised private sector and financial institutions to discuss strategies to crowd in investments and address all the other issues towards achieving the huge potentials in the Nigerian cocoa industry”.
The Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, while speaking stated that with the current economic challenge, compounded by declining value of the national currency, there is an urgent need for policy formation for value addition. Sanwo-Olu, who was represented by the state’s Commissioner for Commerce, Cooperatives, Trade and Investment, Folashade Ambrose-Medebem, believes the nation can harness and multiply, in geometric proportion, the current economic benefits it is deriving from cocoa production through a multi-faceted approach. He stated that by 2026, the state aims to increase local cocoa processing to 40 per cent of the nation’s total cocoa production and that it plans to establish at least three major cocoa processing plants in Lagos, each with a capacity to process 10,000 metric tons annually.
The Governor of Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, lamented that the discovery of oil created serious dislocations within the Nigerian economy. Adeleke, who was represented by the Commissioner for Agriculture in the state, Tola Faseru, charged cocoa-producing states to introduce innovations towards reviving the cocoa sector, set targets to increase tonnes of cocoa they presently produce, support cocoa farmers and ensure that young farmers enter the sub-sector, collaborate with research institutions such as the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) for new cocoa breed and develop value chain addition in term of associated companies for the cocoa sector. He advised each state in the southwest region to build a local revival plan for cocoa that should have a bottom-top approach, saying it is the best strategic approach for the nation and especially the cocoa-producing states.
Speaking further, the governor called on the Federal Government to declare an emergency in the cocoa sector through direct federal interventions in terms of financing of revival plans for cocoa producing states. He added that the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security should support the cocoa-producing states through a World Bank project focusing on cocoa revival across the cocoa producing states. The Oloni of Eti-Oni, Osun State and the Founder, International Cocoa Diplomacy, HRM Oba Dokun Thompson, said that the idea behind the Lagos event was to complement the Abuja event and bring together policy makers, investors, financiers, equipment manufacturers, and entrepreneurs, among others. “We brought them together so that we can begin to discuss and fashion out a way to create market, access and a culture that can add the right value to cocoa in the manner that we can begin to look at wealth creation that will transform the communities”, he added.