Before the recent rebasing of the economy, agriculture was far the largest single contributor to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It contributed an average 40 percent to the GDP and provided 60 percent employment opportunity in the country.
Cocoa contributes over 26% of the GDP of Nigeria non-oil export (despite over3 decades of neglect by the public sector after the discovery of oil).
Our cocoa that had suffered neglect and was bought at a discount rate over other producing countries, despite its rich butter content and fine flavour, has regained its pride of place because the private sector under the aegis of CAN that stood in as a facilitator to prevent its effect on the near collapse of the then rejection of our cocoa internationally.
CAN has been the stopgap between a non-public sector presence and the primary producers of the product with an unending critical support in sensitization, training and managerial improvement of the value chain.
While the literacy rate of most farmers in Nigeria might be considered low, I want to assure you that we have developed a data base of true cocoa farm owners across the federation. This is surely the most sustainable approach to cocoa development and growth in Nigeria.
The cost of producing cocoa may have erroneously been misconstrued to be limited to the cost of harvesting cocoa from the tree. Unfortunately it goes beyond that.
The time and cost borne by the farmer begins from when the farm land is cleared, tilled, ploughed, cultivated, nurtured and harvested.
At every of these stage, the farmer bears heavy financial burden in labour acquisition and deployment. Even when the farmer has crop to harvest, after a great deal of agro-allied inputs, the stress and pressure that has to be borne is better imagined. In our context, every processing stage of the harvest is manually done and unimaginable costs are incurred.
The lot of the farmer would have been bettered if there was provision of modern automation for the various stages of processing - involving plucking, pod breaking, fermentation, drying, cleaning, storage and packaging for export.
Howbeit, these facilities are egregiously absent and far beyond the farmers reach even though he is a major employer of labour and helps to reduce crime within the locality of the farm.
The cocoa value chain has remained pauperized while solely enriching the coffers of government without a direct plough back mechanism in place.
Government fiscal budgeting has a lugubrious loophole in its agricultural distribution of resources. In spite of the huge revenue accruing to its coffers, government has hitherto taken cocoa and the cocoa value chain for granted.
This trend must be reversed as CAN has come to a cross road and must facilitate the growth of the cocoa value chain.
CAN hereby demands the immediate direct reinvestment of government resources into the cocoa sector to facilitate the cocoa trade.
Political figures of production and productivity inconsistent with global trend must be stopped.
We must return to the Agriculture and especially COCOA, the single most important foreign exchange earner for the economy.
Thank you and God bless!