The National President of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria, Adeola Adegoke, has said that Cross River State will soon become the largest producer of cocoa in Nigeria.
Mr Adegoke stated this at the inauguration of the Executive Committee of the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria in Cross River, on Friday, in Calabar.
According to him, Ondo State is known to be the largest producer of the crop in the country.
He said that the average age of a cocoa farmer in Ondo was between 55 and 60, describing this as an ageing population.
Mr Adegoke said that Cross River has the potential in the massive land and forest for cocoa farming, coupled with the youthful population cultivating the crop in the state.
Though the association’s national president acknowledged the potential, he, however, said that the state had to tap into them to succeed, as cocoa alone could run the state’s economy effectively.
“Enough of talking about cocoa estates established by the old Eastern Region. We need to start establishing new estates now.
“We want to see nothing less than 1,000 hectares of new cocoa estates established by the state.
“Enough of export of raw cocoa beans. We need to start adding value and coming up with cocoa wines, biscuits, sweets and soaps that we can consume and export.
“We cannot prosper by just exporting raw cocoa beans. It is, therefore, important for the state government to be deliberate in infrastructural development in cocoa farming communities,” he said.
Mr Adegoke also stressed the need for extension services in the state through innovation.
He urged association members to repay the loans they collected from the government and also pay their annual dues to the association.
The association president disclosed that in 2024, the Third Cocoa Festival would be held in Calabar.
What we’ll do – Cross Rivers govt
On his part, Governor Bassey Otu of Cross River, represented by Secretary to the State Government, Anthony Owan-Enoh, said that the state would do all within its powers to ensure that cocoa farmers got all the necessary inputs.
According to him, the state has been shortchanged for so long because it produces cocoa but does not get the necessary recognition.
“Others come to the state to buy their cocoa but in the end, it is not counted for Cross River as the producing state.
“Going forward, Cross River will produce, sell and export, because we have the capacity and the farmers will get maximum yields for their investments.
“I will have a private meeting with the newly-inaugurated chairman of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria in the state, where he will table the concerns of the farmers so we can chart a new course for the sector,” he said.
In his remarks, the new chairperson of the association, Ramsey Tiku, said that cocoa remained the mainstay of the state’s economy.
According to him, if cocoa development is relegated, the state will be relegating the development of its people.
Mr Tiku said that the Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria would partner with different groups and ministries to create an action plan that would add value to cocoa production in the state.
While thanking members of the association for the confidence reposed in him, he stressed the need for them to start looking at the regeneration of cocoa estates in the state and how to generate data for farmers.
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