NIGERIA – Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) has unveiled a five-year plan to revitalise Nigeria’s cocoa sector aimed at increasing productivity.

The Executive Director, Dr. Dara Akala, said that the initiative seeks to rejuvenate existing plantations in the country so as to increase foreign exchange earnings

Akala said that PIND has carried out prior studies on the cocoa sector with an objective of examining the competitiveness in the region while identifying the gaps that will require intervention for sustainability and effective linkage with the global cocoa market.

“In January 2018, PIND commissioned a value chain study of the Niger Delta cocoa industry, which was completed in March 2018.”

The initiative has also received support from Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, who said the state had approved the establishment of 2000 hectares of hybrid cocoa plantations to increase production

“The industry will have a strong supporting service providers delivering the inputs, extension and technologies that smallholder farmers need to upgrade leading to increasing productivity and higher quality cocoa to meet market demand resulting in higher income for farmers,” Akala said.

He pointed out that despite having high production potential, Nigeria lags behind in production compared to its West African counterparts, being rated seventh in the world and fourth in Africa after countries like Ghana, Cameroon and Cote D’Ivoire.

He added that cocoa employs over 300,000 farmers nationwide with about 120,000 from the Niger Delta, stressing that there is dire need to strengthen the sector.

Akala also notes that the preliminary study and systemic analysis of economic opportunities in the Niger Delta proved that palm oil, cassava and cocoa value chains and SME sectors assured significant growth potential in the agricultural sector.

“For this to happen, however, there is the need for proper coordination of all functions within the cocoa sector and greater effort towards increasing the quantity and quality of cocoa beans being produced from the Niger Delta in particular and Nigeria in general.

“More attention needs to be paid to technology and innovations working with cocoa research institute and agro input producers and manufactures.

“Government needs to come up with harmonized plans and policies that will ensure proper coordination and support towards improving cocoa bean quality,” he said.