The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar, has attributed Nigeria’s loss of cocoa powder in the global market to a lack of improved seedlings leading to low-quality production.

The minister stated this on Tuesday, in Abuja at the Nigerian Cocoa Summit and Awards in Abuja with the theme: “Cocoa: Past, Present and the Future”.

Abubakar who was represented by the Director, Federal Department of Agriculture, Dr. Karima Babangida, said the ministry was collaborating with all relevant stakeholders towards increasing cocoa production from the present 250,000 metric tons to 714,000 metric tons.

”This is in line with the new National Cocoa Plan as proposed to be sent to Federal Executive Council by the Ministry and the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment,” he said.

According to him, agriculture holds the key to collective survival for the people both in terms of job creation, income generation, food and nutritional security, and foreign exchange earnings.

He stated that the National Cocoa Plan (2021 to 2030) was aimed at promoting a sustainable cocoa economy, resurgence in production and industrialisation to trigger a robust domestic consumption and farmgate prosperity,

He said the Federal Government would support states making a quest to diversify the economy, especially in the area of increase in cocoa productivity to ensure that Nigeria regains its position as one of the highest cocoa-producing countries in the world.

The  National President of Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Comrade Adeola Adegoke, lamented that cocoa which contributed the highest foreign exchange earnings in the 1950s to 1960s, had reduced its earnings due to a myriad of challenges confronting the sub-sector.

Adegoke said the advent of climate change had added another factor negatively affecting the production of cocoa.

While explaining that Nigeria was adjudged to be the second-largest producer of cocoa in the past, he said the country currently produces about 250,000 metric tons.

In his remark, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment Otunba Niyi Adebayo, said Nigeria had the potential of becoming the leading trade hub of Africa leveraging on Africa continental free trade agreements( AFCFTA).

According to him, the ministry has the mandate to enhance competitiveness and provide the enabling environment that will boost Nigeria’s Agric commodities sector.

He appealed to private sector groups to support the growth of agriculture knowing that the Federal Government is committed to developing policies geared towards the development of the cocoa sector. (NAN)