Cocoa flourishes in areas that are not more than 20 degrees north or south of the equator. The trees respond well in regions with high temperature and distributed rainfall. In Nigeria, the cocoa tree is grown from seedlings which are raised in nurseries, when the seedlings reach a height of 3cm they are transplanted at a distance of 3 to 4 meters. The cultivation of cocoa is done by many small scale farmers on farmlands of around two hectares while export is dominated by a few firms.
Historically, Nigeria’s cocoa production was marketed through a monopsony by marketing boards created by the government. In the 1980s the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund advised Nigeria to liberalize the sector because the marketing boards were ineffective. In 1986, Nigeria dissolved the marketing boards and liberalized cocoa marketing and trade. However, trade has not yielded the anticipated results, in addition, aging trees and farms, low yields, inconsistent production patterns, disease incidence, pest attack and little agricultural mechanization contributed to a stagnant cocoa industry. Currently, farmers sell their products indirectly through a cooperative or a licensed buying agent who in turn sell it to exporting firms.
Cocoa farming has really contributed to greatly to most of the agricultural sectors in Nigeria as we all know; agriculture has done a lot in the time of old even when crude oil was not the major source of revenue in Nigeria. Agriculture has provided food for almost the entire population of Nigeria, is it employment? Farmers that operates on a larger scale tends to employ the services of more labourers to carry out different farming activities on their farmland.
Cocoa farming is a very vital part of agriculture as it provides food for the entire population in Nigeria therefore reducing hunger to its minimal rate, raw materials needed by the industries are equally provided and it also serve as a source of foreign exchange in Nigeria.
Cocoa has really contributed grossly to the economic development of Nigeria as it served as the major source of income and economic development during the 50s, the value of Nigeria currency was very much appreciated and the standard of living was very much manageable. In Nigeria of today, virtually everybody is now shying away from agriculture as regards the high rate of power, energy and time it consumes into a much faster and less strenuous and faster money spinning business with full focus on the oil sector that has been plagued with sharp practices, which has wrecked unimaginable havoc on the economy of the nation.
Nigeria is blessed with varieties of agricultural products that if fully tapped could take the country out of its economic woes. Given its ever increasing global demand and high prospects in foreign exchange earnings, the upscale of cultivation, processing and exporting of cocoa could just be the major alternative foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. Just before the attention was shifted to oil, cocoa farmers were considered as the wealthiest in time past because of the value of the produce and the huge demand for it all over the country and beyond.
Adejola Adeyemi- Crown is Editorial Staff of Abeokuta Chambers of Commerce