USAID|NIGERIA moves to increase Nigeria’s cocoa yields
The United States Agency for International Development USAID|NIGERIA has trained major service providers in key cocoa producing states on vegetative propagation of cocoa to address the dearth of planting materials for cocoa and also enable increased yield of the cash crop.
The week-long training held recently entailed series of practical sessions and field trips. Participants were taught how to carry out rehabilitation of old cocoa trees via vegetative grafting with young or new budwoods from high-yielding cocoa trees. This measure reinvigorates the old tree and increases its productivity yield for another number of decades.
The Nigerian Cocoa industry is currently plagued by low productivity at less than 350kg/hectare annually and dire scarcity of cocoa seedlings (planting materials) to cultivate much needed new cocoa plantations. Investments in new plantation are required to replace and expand existing cocoa estates, most which were cultivated in the pre-independence era, hence the timely and strategic invention of USAID|NIGERIA in the production end of the cocoa value chain through the ‘Training of Trainers on Cocoa rehabilitation and Planting Material.’
Lead Facilitator at the training, Daniel Adewale from the Department of Crop Science and Horticulture of Federal University of Oye – Ekiti noted that “Nigeria is no longer getting full economic benefits from growing cocoa because most cocoa fields are old and small as well as the poor genetic qualities of the planting materials used.”
Therefore the cultivation of cocoa is no longer a profitable crop for many farmers and as a result of this, the nation’s quantity and quality of cocoa is declining. The need to urgently address this decline is why USAID|NIGERIA is intervening through its Nigeria Expanded Trade and Transport (NEXTT) project to build the capacity of service providers/extension workers to help farmers rehabilitate old cocoa trees and cultivate new clonal seedling gardens -using budwood- for production of more high-yielding cocoa seedlings.
Speaking on the need to move Nigeria cocoa’s industry from the 19th century to the 21st century, Remi Osijo from the USAID|NIGERIA NEXTT project identified the massive investment opportunities and its inherent potential for the Nigerian economy if young entrepreneurial cocoa farmers are “supported with renovation and expansion of atomized farms (less than one hectare) to 3-5 hectares, for higher yields of over one ton/hectare.”
According to him, “there is an urgent need to encourage investments in commercial cultivation of nuclear cocoa estates not just for increased productivity but because the commercial scale of the operations and services that will be rendered. This will ultimately address quality issues of Nigeria’s cocoa beans as the fermentation, drying, ware housing and branding will be done appropriately and these services will certainly be extended to the atomized/local farmers around the estate.”
“Just imagine the scale and number of jobs that will be created from this venture with Nigeria earning more revenue as premium price will certainly be paid for such standardized cocoa beans all over the world” opined Osijo.