Wednesday, 07 November 2012 00:00
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FG disburses free cocoa pods to farmers

To stop further use of poor yielding and old varieties and systematically replace the tree stocks in Nigeria, the federal government has disbursed free cocoa pods to farmers in the country.
The minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina, who was represented by Dr. Julius Odeyemi said that the free distribution was a strategic consideration in the transformation of the cocoa sector involving the use of improved genetic stocks.
He added that it was newly released hybrids and amazon and a phased replacement of old unproductive stocks with new high yielding stocks.

He made this known recently at Owena, near Akure in Ondo State, during the official flag-off of the free distribution of improved hybrid varieties of cocoa pods to farmers in the South West to plant and increase their farm sizes.
According to him, this was to stop further use of poor yielding and old varieties in the south west region.
He said they have engaged specialised seed production units at Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Tree Crops Units of Ondo, Osun and Ekiti States to produce 3.6 million hybrid pods.
He added that it will be given to cocoa farmers.

He noted: “This has the potentials of raising the current production on farms from 350 kg/hectare to 1,000 kg/hectare and also reducing time to maturity from five-year to 24 and 30 months of field establishment.”
The minister expressed the hope that "as we flag off free distribution of these selected hybrid pods today, these will be useful to re-position cocoa as a veritable and substantial foreign exchange earning commodity, creating jobs, wealth and prosperity for our farmers, traders, warehouse merchants, processors and exporters, state governments and the nation as a whole.'

He pointed out that cocoa agribusiness, must be attractive to the youths in both operation and wealth creation.
He said there need that people must harness country's resources to play significantly in the global market.
Adesina noted: “First we are focusing on maximizing yield per unit land area on the current 650,000 ha of active plantation through efficient use of critical inputs like agrochemicals, fertiliser and good agricultural practices.”
To this end, the ministry noted 'the customized Cocoa-Growth Enhancement Support Program (Cocoa – GES) is being implemented.

He added: “In partnership with the private sector, the government is supporting the most vulnerable cocoa farmers’ access to critical yield-enhancing inputs.”
He said their goal was to leverage Cocoa GES to lift these farmers out of the trap of poverty and set them on the path to become sustainable commercial farmers.
He stated that the targeted support provided through the Cocoa – GES program includes a discount of 50 per cent of the cost of these critical inputs (1) 200 sachets of approved fungicides, (2) five 50kg bags of NPK 20:10:10 fertilizer with 5 kg Agrolyser and (3) 50 sachets of insecticides.

He stressed that this translates into N43,000.00 in support to the most vulnerable cocoa farmers.
He underscored the response of the government thus: "One main goal for the Nigerian Cocoa industry is simple: Double production to 500,000 MT by 2015.
To accomplish this, the minister disclosed that the cocoa transformation team had developed a three-prong M.R.E strategy – maximise, rehabilitate and expand.
It was also noted that the cocoa strategy was developed in partnership and with inputs from all relevant stakeholders, simple and sophisticated, traditional and modern, small scale farmers and big traders and processors, all along the whole value chain.

He said the Federal Government's cocoa transformation programme would strategically addresses these constraints as they adopt the whole value chain approach from input supply to support on-farm production to value addition, local consumption and export of produce and products.
According to him, its goal is to eventually account for at least 25 per cent of the world market with an output of 500,000 metric tonnes by 2015.
The minister noted: “The agro-processors who create markets for millions of Nigerian farmers must also be supported adequately. It is also very critical to have a strong and virile commodity association protecting the interest of all players along the value chain.

“It is most critical that we have a strong and solid institutional framework guarding and guiding the whole cocoa sector and playing on the global scene for the benefit of the Nigerian cocoa economy. We therefore must address the challenges facing our farmers, traders, processors, transporters, shippers and everyone along the value chain with the precision of a surgeon: we must change," he added.
Meanwhile, the commissioner for Agriculture of Ondo State, Engineer Ademola Olorunfemi, commended the federal government for the intervention.
The commissioner observed that its state appreciates Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, under the transformation agenda, he has put in place, particularly in agriculture and for considering Dr. Akin Adesina as suitable for the post of Honourable Minister.

“We are glad to work with the minister," he said.
The commissioner however encouraged farmers “to make the best use of the cocoa pods,” adding that the “governor has asked all commodity associations to put forward requests on the kind of intervention and support they require from the government.
He encouraged “those who have old farmers and family farms” to come forward for seedlings to support the federal government’s agricultural transformation agenda, while reassuring the beneficiary farmers gathered to receive the free pods.
The cocoa transformation team leader,Dr. Peter Aikpokpodion, said the demand for varieties of cocoa from Nigeria was made recently at the international cocoa conference.
He encouraged the “agro entrepreneurs from Nigeria to take advantage of this, stating that was why the minister of agriculture was giving the pods free.
He informed farmers who are interested in benefiting from Growth Enhancement Support in cocoa to register with the tree crops units located in various parts of the country.
Among the beneficiaries of the free cocoa pod distribution are Segun Adewumi, an office  manager at the headquarters office of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Akure.