Dr Patrick Adebola Has made no secret of his desire to see Nigeria come back in the cocoa sector. The outspoken Executive Director of Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) says Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana are in their sights as he lays out his vision and strategy to bring Nigeria up to a tier-one cocoa producer.
In laying the blame for the deterioration of their agricultural sector, Dr Adebola said oil money was convenient and fast, but climate change means this is not a sustainable model for the country.
The future is not oil, so it has to be something else. If Dr Adebola Gets his way, it will be key crops like cocoa, cashew and coffee.
Nigeria has 924,000 km2 of landmass, compared to 322,000 km2 in Cote d’Ivoire, and 239 km2 for Ghana, so the potential for a thriving agriculture industry exists.
Dr Adebola knows that the country has much catching up to do on multiple fronts. A successful season in Nigeria might produce 250,000 to 300,000 tonnes of cocoa, far short of the 1 million or 2 million tonnes that Ghana and cote d’Ivoire produce, respectively.
The entire infrastructure in the country needs updating and rethinking, and although Dr Adebola Is diplomatic on this matter, He will need more support financially and politically from the government if he is to match the top producers.
There are practical steps that need to be taken, such as the distribution of new, high-yielding seedlings. Dr Adebola is correct when he says that the regulatory framework and body that oversees production first needs to be in place. The original cocoa board was disbanded after corruption allegations, but Dr Adebola maintains the problems should have been resolved in a way that keeps the board functional.
He also bemoans the lack of investment into research and development but says that a reinstated cocoa board could funnel some revenues into financing the R&D and relieve the government of that burden.
The immediate priority should be to build a robust governance structure that can build out an educational programme, oversee the distribution of high yielding seedlings, and put quality control in place.
Nigeria’s cocoa yields are low compared to the average, and many farms have fallen into a poor state. Reconditioning a farm to be more productive and produce better quality is not hard, but doing it on a large scale is. This is why there must be governance and support infrastructure in place first.
Dr Adebola should also be in active discussion with the government to receive some guarantees that some of the future additional profits can be ringfenced for reinvesting in the industry.