Its about one year after the election of President Muhammadu Buhari, cocoa producers in Nigeria are still waiting for the promised policies that would boost the sector.
Growth in cocoa in the Africa’s largest economy is seen as vital to offset a slump in oil revenue that has plunged the economy into crisis in recent times, Reuters reports.
President Buhari had routinely stated the need to expand the agricultural sector to end the reliance of Africa’s biggest oil producer on crude exports and cut its 20 billion U.S dollars annual food import bill.
However, his policies have not yet made it beyond the talking stage.
For cocoa processors, Buhari’s foreign exchange policies have added to a crisis, as grinders struggle to get dollars to import spare parts, since the Central Bank has imposed hefty curbs to support the naira.
Cocoa farmers in Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest grower, have recently enjoyed bumper profits, but this is due to high global prices for raw beans rather than government intervention.
Ondo state,Cocoa Products Managing Director,Akin Olusuyi said his plant’s output fell to 4,000 tonnes last year, a fraction of its 30,000 tonnes capacity.
“We have started shutting down already. As I’m talking to you, there are about eight processing factories in Nigeria and I think as I’m talking now, I think only three or four of us are in operation and in operation epileptically. We are just surviving not living really, not living,”
So far, the clearest message from Buhari’s administration is that it will retain many of its predecessor’s policies.
The roadmap inherited by his government seeks to increase output to 1 million tonnes by 2018 in a bid to catch up with the 1.8 million tonnes of top producer Ivory Coast.
The agriculture ministry also wants to plant 2 million cocoa trees within three years, but no details have been given to show how this would be achieved.
“We’re looking forward to quick intervention, quick action on the part of government even if it is by policy statements but we have not seen that yet so well, one welcomes such statements but as we have seen over the years, government talks but it does not walk the talk,” said cocoa consultant Robo Adhuse.
Nigeria’s cocoa output is set to rise to 350,000 tonnes in the 2015/16 season, as farmers are reinvesting last season’s larger profits in fertilizer and pesticides.
Aside from a brief drop in January, global cocoa prices have risen for two years, buoyed by growing demand for cocoa products and chocolate, particularly in China and India, plus fears that the El Nino weather pattern could affect beans.