With the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) in place already, the Federal Government has disclosed that by taking advantage of the trade treaty, Nigeria has the capacity to export $3 billion worth of derivatives from cocoa and $300 million from the sale of the raw unprocessed commodity to boost the country’s foreign exchange earnings. TAIWO HASSAN reports
With attention shifting to the country’s nonoil exports segment of the economy in taking advantage of AfCFTA’s commencement to boost the economy, there is no doubt that government needs to do a lot. However, as Nigeria looks inward in order to concentrate on her comparative advantage as regards commodities that will put her ahead under AfCFTA, one of the key crops to explore is cocoa.
Speaking on Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD)’s plan to upscale the cocoa sub-sector, Minister of Agriculture, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono, explained that the country was planning to take advantage of mechanised farming after long decades of subsisting farming dependence to boost her agriculture prowess, especially on upscale of cocoa production. He noted that unlike her neighbouring countries, Nigeria’s turnover rate for cocoa expanded over a considerably long period of time as country’s turnover takes as long as seven and a half years. The minister lauded government’s efforts towards up-scaling agro-industrialisation and cocoa production in the country with the establishment of a very versatile and new cocoa processing plants nationwide through which it intends to create employability by processing cocoa into powder and other related products. According to him, the continental trade scheme will be a good launchpad for the country’s agricultural products to take advantage of under AfCFTA. He said Nigeria’s agric sector would be the biggest beneficiary in AfCFTA.
In an interview in Abuja recently on exploring cocoa derivatives under AfCFTA, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Sector Matters, Mr. Francis Anatogu, who is also the Secretary of the National Action Committee (NAC) for Nigeria’s Af- CFTA implementation, noted that there was massive opportunity in the cocoa area if well harnessed. He argued that it was in the interest of the Federal Government to make sure that the policies that it puts in the public space make it easier for businesses to thrive, saying it was only then that they can make money and pay taxes to government. The president’s aide explained that there were efforts being made in that direction to improve coordination and joint planning, saying that the process would get better as the country moved towards export orientation and non-oil growth. He added that individuals and businesses were already taking advantage and moving into Africa. “We cannot be competitive in every sector or on every product. So, we need to focus on areas where we have comparative advantage and build an ecosystem around it. “So, our approach is that we grow the value chain in areas we have the advantage, for example in cocoa, we need to start exporting chocolate and other derivatives and we can target to export $300 million worth of cocoa per annum, which is a huge target or we can focus on market of over $3 billion of same cocoa, but looking at the value chain,” he argued. Anatogu had said being successful with AfCFTA would mean achieving a diversified and sustainable Nigerian economy with strong linkages with neighbours and the top economies in Africa as well as a globally accepted country brand.
However, millions of smallholder farmers in the country depend on the cocoa crop for their livelihoods by aggressively cultivating the commodity by taking advantage of its exports. But one key disadvantage among the smallholder farmers is the lack of adequate farm inputs to boost cocoa productivity advantages due to non-access of agric financing in the country. The low income earned by these farmers is a reflection of low international prices, which has forced Ghana and Ivory Coast to create a cartel and placed a minimum market price for their beans. Cocoa farmers in Nigeria believe that the low pricing era of the raw beans would soon be a thing of the past with the commencement of AfCFTA.
With AfCFTA now in place as a benchmark for Nigeria to aggressively develop her agricultural commodities for export, agric stakeholders are hoping that government’s policy summersault won’t deny the country of the $3 billion cocoa targets under AfCFTA as Nigeria currently has a deficit of $493 million in her cocoa industry due to the inability to tap the country’s cocoa potential.