AFTER distributing 10 million cocoa seedlings in 2020, the Cocoa Research Institute (CRIN) says it will disburse additional five million seedlings to farmers in 2021.
ABDULLAHI Ja’o, board chairman, disclosed this during a meeting of board chairmen of all agricultural research institutes on Tuesday in Abuja.
Ja’o said since he joined the research institute around 2019, at least seven million cocoa farmers had benefitted from across the country, including cocoa farmers in Adamawa State.
“I can say that we have very early yielding varieties, capable of yielding fruits in three years, instead of the 10 years and five years maturing years before now.”
He explained that the seeds were given freely to genuine cocoa farmers.
The research institute was able to identify the actual farmers and ensure they benefitted from the support of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), he noted, expressing concerns about farmers’ poor access to market and preservation.
“It is annoying to see someone carry his cocoa bags everywhere from one buyer to two another, trying to get a better price,” he said. “Sometimes, they (buyers) will keep you at a place and ask farmers to continue to check-back.”
Earlier, Prof. Garba Sharubutu, executive secretary of the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), had acknowledged that the CRIN was not getting the right attention until lately when the federal government gave a grant to the institute to develop the cocoa value chain.
He said there were currently early maturing varieties of the commodity, wheat and palm oil seedlings which had been produced but yet to be taken over by off-takers.
According to him, people would rather invest in early profiting ventures such as taxi business, point of sales (POS) machine business, rather than agriculture.
However, he said the federal government should consider supporting graduates of colleges of agriculture in the country through the Anchor Borrowers Programme (ABP), rather than distributing funds to individuals claiming to be farmers and needed loan support.
Shurabutu argued further on the need for internships for graduates of agricultural science. This, he emphasised, would prepare the students ahead of real investment in the agric sector upon graduation.
“We have done a proposal and sent to the minister for us to build vocational training centers in the 52 colleges of education. This will further help us drive the vision of attaining food sufficiency in Nigeria.”
Recall that in the 1960s, agriculture was the mainstay of Nigerian economy until the transition to oil. For years, experts have advised the federal government to diversify its economy rather than completely rely on oil.