President Muhammadu Buhari has rued the neglect of the cocoa sector as a result of the over reliance on crude oil.
He said government was now determined more than ever to revive the sector and make Nigeria one of the leading producers of the cash crop.
The president made this declaration yesterday while delivering the keynote address at the First International Cocoa Summit holding in Abuja.
He expressed regret that cocoa production which peaked at 420,000 metric tonnes in the 60s has steadily plummeted to 192,000 Metric tonnes in 2015.
The president, represented at the occasion by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh, expressed worries that following steady decline in cocoa production, Nigeria has steeped from the fourth position in the global ranking to seventh.
“Before now, cocoa was the second largest foreign exchange earner for Nigeria after crude oil, where over two million direct and indirect jobs were created along the value chain. It is unfortunate that the sector has suffered neglect as a result of over reliance on crude oil. This has also unfortunately led to the decline in the country’s annual production from 420,000 metric tons in the 60s to 192,000 metric tons in 2015. This is a situation that is no more acceptable to government,’’ Buhari said.
He said the time was long over due for Nigeria where cocoa is cultivated in 16 states to transit from being a net exporter of raw materials and commodities to becoming an industrial economy.
Buhari said Nigeria’s prosperity will ultimately be hinged on the change in the attitude of the people towards patronising Made in Nigeria products and services.
Aside, he noted that the Nigerian Industrial Revolution Plan (NIRP) launched in 2014 by the Goodluck Jonathan administration was key, adding current realities have warranted the document to be moved from the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Aisha Abubakar, said the theme of the summit aligned with the pragmatic and focused economic drive of government to achieve inclusive growth.
She said cocoa would serve as bulwark for its economy against the vagaries of oil market where the country’s share of world output has also declined remarkably.