By Dikachi Elemba, Owerri
…request 100 hectares of land for 100 cocoa farmers
Cocoa farmers in Imo State have appealed to the state government to come to their rescue in order to fully restore the production and processing of cocoa in the state and list the state, once again, among producers of the cash crop in the country.
“If the government can do that, I assure you that Imo State will be exporting cocoa and we will start to earn foreign exchange, and our national headquarters, that is the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, is ready to give us support,” Innocent Dike, chairman, Imo State chapter of the Cocoa Association of Nigeria, said in an interview.
One of the major challenges the farmers in the state face, Dike said, is the state government’s lack of interest in cocoa farming even though the state is a cocoa producer.
He said the association has written several letters aimed at drawing the attention of the government to the plight of cocoa farmers in the state.
According to Dike, in states where the governments are interested in cocoa farming, the farmers do well and the states are the better for it as cocoa production helps shore up their revenue base.
He said Imo State has two major cocoa producing areas, Oguta and Ihitte Uboma Local Government Areas, but lamented the acute shortage or lack of land to plant cocoa seedlings.
The state chairman also decried what he described as challenges of poor cocoa development.
“The cocoa trees we have in Imo State are moribund, old and need replacement because most of them are old varieties of cocoa that were planted a long, long time ago. Now there are new and improved varieties to be planted and you cannot plant without having farmlands. So, land is necessary and I know that the government has access to land,” he said.
Dike also advocated that the state government plant cocoa seedlings along intra-city roads, advising that lands containing abandoned government projects in some communities could be converted into cocoa farming areas. Furthermore, the banks of the rivers in the state like lands along Otamiri River, Nwaorie River and others in the state could be utilised by the government to plant some cocoa seedlings, he said.
He said what the association is trying to do is to restore the cocoa farming culture in the state and the association has put everything on ground waiting for the support of the state government.
“We have been able to collect the data of cocoa farmers in Imo State. We know where the farmers and their farms are located in the state, we have carried out inspections of where the cocoa areas are in the state, and we are ready to collaborate with the government and any other relevant institutions in developing cocoa in Imo State,” he said.
As a way of developing the cash crop in the state, Dike said the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has shown interest in cocoa in Imo State and advised the state government to key in to create a counterpart fund or a tripartite arrangement to boost cocoa production in the state.
He commended the Nigerian Export Promotion Council (NEPC) for the recent programme held for cocoa farmers in Imo State, saying it was a boost to cocoa farmers in the state. The event, he said, was graced by the Imo State commissioner for agriculture, CBN representatives, and about 100 cocoa farmers.