The federal government has said it is set to relaunch cocoa farming in Nigeria.
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh who stated this on Tuesday in Lagos at the Agric Expo organized by First Bank of Nigeria, said the government will be planting 15 million cocoa trees yearly with effect from 2017. The minister said the scheme will take off in Ondo and Cross River States who are reputed to be major cocoa producing states and from there to other states where cocoa is also produced.
He said Nigeria has all what it takes to lead the world in cocoa production but laziness has robbed the country of that position. In his words: “It is a shame that we now import cocoa.”
He also informed that the federal government will commence production of shea butter, coconut, oil palm and cashew nuts. According to him, the plan is that within the next two years, Nigeria will stop export of raw nuts.
The minister who was obviously elated, in his goodwill message, thanked First Bank for its interest in agriculture an area other banks are not willing to go into.
He said Nigeria would have gone far in the issue of food security, but for the too many disruptions and changes of government which has lead to inconsistency in agricultural policies.. Ogbeh said: “The federal government is determined to do everything possible to bring the nation back to its position in the 50s and 60s when it comes to agriculture. But we need the support of all especially the banking sector in the area of finance because the farmers cannot do much without funding. Not just that they need financing, they need it at friendly interest rate.”
He said Nigeria is about the only country where the interest rate for agric is higher than 5%. According to him, in India for instance, it is 3%, in Japan, it is 2.5%. “The farmer does not have collateral, we need to support them otherwise we will starve,” he said.
Earlier in his goodwill message, Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment, Okechukwu Enelamah who was represented by the acting managing director of Bank of Industry (BoI), Mr. Waheed Olagunju, expressed the happiness of his ministry that First Bank was organizing the expo which will expose the farmers to better opportunities and educate them on how best to package their products for export.
He promised the readiness of his ministry to support entrepreneurs to make wise investment and access funding through the Bank of Industry and other financial institutions.
In his opening remarks, Managing Director First Bank of Nigeria, Dr. Adesola Adeduntan, while thanking the federal government for its renewed interest in agriculture, said his bank was motivated to organize the expo because of the strategic importance of agriculture to national development.
He said the bank is ever willing to support genuine farmers to ensure Nigeria achieves self sufficiency in food production.
The agric expo with the theme: Reinventing Agriculture for Sustainable National Development, was attended by farmers and dealers in agrochemicals and equipments from across Nigeria.