Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND) has fashioned a five-year plan to revitalise cocoa productivity by rejuvenating existing plantations in the country so as to increase foreign exchange earnings.
The Executive Director, Dr. Dara Akala, at the cocoa stakeholders' meeting in Akure last week, saying efforts to set directions in the subsector were on, expressing optimism that it would reduce poverty in the Niger Delta.
Akala revealed that studies and systemic analysis of economic opportunities in the Niger Delta proved that palm oil, cassava and cocoa value chains and SME sectors assured significant growth potential in the agricultural sector.
"In January 2018, PIND commissioned a value chain study of the Niger Delta cocoa industry, which was completed in March 2018."The main objective of the study was to examine the competitiveness of the region's cocoa sector while identifying the gaps and areas that will require intervention for sustainability and effective linkage with the global cocoa market."
He, however, lamented that the nation had been rated seventh in the world and fourth in Africa after countries like Ghana, Cameroon and Cote D'Ivoire though they have smaller farmland.
Akala, who was represented by PIND's Economic Development Manager, Mr. James Elekwachi, noted that the cocoa industry in the country is more than 140 years old, revealing that the first export of 20 tonnes of cocoa outside the shore was in 1890.
He added that cocoa employs over 300,000 farmers nationwide with about 120,000 from the Niger Delta, stressing that there is dire need to strengthen the sector.
"That the industry will have a strong supporting service providers delivering the inputs, extension and technologies that smallholder farmers need to upgrade leading to increasing productivity and higher quality cocoa to meet market demand resulting in higher income for farmers."
While Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, said it had approved the establishment of 2000 hectares of hybrid cocoa plantations at Ijugbere town in Owo local government area of the state.