NIGERIA – In efforts to diversify the nation’s economy from the oil to non-oil sectors like agriculture and solid minerals, the Federal Government has set a target of 500,000 metric tonnes (MT) cocoa production and processing by year 2021.

Government is also organising a one week stakeholders’ forum that will bring together over 1,000 Small, Medium Enterprises (SMEs) business men within and outside Nigeria to brainstorm on ways of promoting the exports of homemade Nigerian products to foreign countries.

The Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, dropped the hint on Wednesday, while briefing journalists on the forthcoming Ist International Cocoa Summit, as well as the SMEs Expo scheduled for August 28th-31st, 2017.

“The Summit will no doubt open up global opportunities to both local and foreign investors to invest in the country’s cocoa industry as well as developing a national roadmap.

This is with a view to achieving 500,000MT and above production, and processing of at least 50 per cent, and consuming about 20 per cent of the annual total production by the Year 2021.”

She said that the summit is being organised by the Ministry in collaboration with the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), and supported by International Cocoa organisation (ICCO), African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) as well as governments of cocoa producing states with the theme, “Cocoa, a Strategic Commodity for National Economic Development.”

The Minister also revealed that the SMEs Expo will hold in Lagos this August. According to her, government is taking measures to reposition the Cocoa industry, which has become imperative, adding that, “the Cocoa sub-sector had suffered a great neglect, which had resulted in sharp drop of annual production from 420,000MT in 1960s to 300,000MT, and further down to 192,000MT in 2015.

Currently, Nigeria is ranked 7th in the world cocoa production against the 4th position maintained some couple of years back.”

Also in his remarks, the Chairman, organising committee, Ambassador Kadiri Musa, said the committee has been given the mandate to ensure the success of the summit.

“The SMEs Expo is expected to encourage Nigeria Exports of goods, products to other parts of the world, we can get a lot of foreign exchange from this.”

Musa explained that already 20 countries of the world including those from Africa are participating in the summit, adding that only SMEs that will show case standard products are qualified to participate.

“The Drive of the SMEs expo is that of manufacturing, production is necessary but adding value to a product is key.

The summit will bring together local SMEs to interact with their foreign counterparts to negotiate better businesses and mutual transactions.”

August 4, 2017: The Guardian