A private sector-based organisation, Bean and Co. Global Ltd, has stressed the need for increased investment in Cocoa cultivation to revive Nigeria’s production and distribution lead worldwide.
Mr Ilan Lugassy, Executive Director of the organisation, a Nigeria-based Israeli Cocoa company, gave the advice in an interview in Abuja.
He revealed that the organisation and Cross River State Government had entered into a Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement to promote cash crop production in the country.
He said that the partnership became imperative due to the high demand for cocoa products globally and Nigeria, being in the tropics, has great potential to produce and export the cash crop commercially.
According to him, Cross River State government has already parcelled 5,000 hectares of farm land in Etung and Ikom Local Governments which will be leased to farmers for 25years minimum under growers’ schemes.
“Our aim is to grow from 5,000 to 20,000 hectares; in this case, Cross River and Nigeria at large will definitely be considered one of the largest cocoa producers.
“If we will duplicate this project in the South-East and West- Osun, Ogun and so on, Nigeria can beat Ivory Coast and with much higher quality of Cocoa.
“We are focused on the Cross River project and we will be happy to initiate discussion with other State governments.
“What is important for us in the partnership is not just to come as investors, but being committed.
“Commitment is not only providing land, we do not want any land in Nigeria for many reasons, but to integrate local communities into the project development.
“We will be glad to initiate discussion with interested State governments on cocoa as we are doing a similar project in South America, specifically in Ecuador.”
He described poor investment in the cultivation of Cocoa as a major hindrance ot production and distribution of the cash crop in Nigeria, adding that derivable economic potential remained largely untapped.
He identified beans, pulp and flour to be by-products that could be derived from Cocoa pods, saying only 10 per cent of the pod was explored in the form of chocolate.
He said strategic measures had already been put in place to ensure continuity of the project, irrespective of tenure expiration of the government administration in that State.
“The first objective of the project is how we can make the project sustainable; we are looking at sustainability.
“This is why we integrated community and local farmers into each project of agriculture we are doing.
“This is a fantastic project because it is one of a kind with powerful social impact and there is direct synergy between the producers of Cocoa products and growers,” Lugassy said. (NAN)