Renaissance: Ondo explores ways to boost Cocoa Production
Ondo Chocolate Production Plant To Begin April 2016
Goaded by frantic moves to save the state from the perpetual dependence on oil, Ondo State government has aligned with the Federal Government agricultural initiative of “One State, One Product” through its Cocoa Revolution Project (CRP).
The ‘One State, One Product’ initiative, according to Nigeria Export Promotion Council (NEPC) will help all the 36 states of the nation to identify their major agricultural produce, which they will concentrate on for export to replace oil.
Cocoa Revolution, A Bail Out
Ondo State government has rehabilitated the Oda settlement and Cocoa Catalytic Industry, Idanre, as production and processing hub of the cocoa beans produced in all the farm settlements across the state. The farm settlements were inherited from the Western region.
According to the Chairman of the Cocoa Revolution Project (CRP), Dr. Jibayo Oyebade, one of the major steps taken by the state is to ensure the beans produced in the state attained a premium rate, which would increase the value in the international market.
He explained that premium rating means the highest quality, which the cocoa beans can have in the international market and consequently attract great value. This, he said, is in line with the vision of Dr. Olusegun Mimiko to make cocoa the major agricultural export product of the state.
The cocoa revolution, as said by Oyebade, is where 1,100 seedlings will be planted per hectare at spacing of three meters on line and three meters between the lines. He noted that the Oda Cocoa Plantation, which was established in 1954 by Chief Awolowo has 1,744 hectares according to report got from the archives in Ibadan.
Due to the abandonment of cocoa as a mainstay of the economy, presently, Oyebade stated that cocoa farmers in the state are producing poor quality cocoa beans, which suffer 100 per cent reduction in the open market.
To stem the ugly tide in cocoa and make Nigeria regain its position in the global market, he pointed out that CRP is embarking on acceptable, practical and sustainable approach to the processing of cocoa beans to the highest international quality level, which he called “X Premium.”
According to him: “This is a special premium that you can use to produce any chocolate with that quality beans. This was the main reason our first chocolate product participated in the last chocolate outing in UK, wherein, 502 chocolate products all over the world gathered for laboratory test, bud test, quality control test and we came second out of 502 chocolate samples.
“So here in the revolution, we are armed to attest that our cocoa product is the best quality cocoa for the world market,” he emphasised, saying, CRP is getting ready for 16 tons of high-quality premium, which will make Ondo first state to produce beans directly from a single estate.
Moreover, Oyebade noted there will be the production of organic fertilizer in the farm, which has been tested scientifically and found capable of resuscitate the poor land through combination of poultry faeces and cocoa husks.
He said organic fertilizers would help resuscitate the land’s fertility, noting that inorganic fertilizer reduces the power of the soil, while organic fertilizer will stay up to three years.
Oyebade, said; “Farmers must obey some certain rules. Don’t allow cocoa to touch the surface of the earth or concrete, when you are fermenting, then the production of top quality cocoa would have started. The first critical hazard control is to make sure that the cocoa is not fermented on the floor of the earth or concrete.
“This is not to allow the heat being generated by cocoa beans to be lost to mother earth because scientifically heat is transferred to the sand and will make the cocoa in losing its aroma. This must be adhered to strictly to get the best of cocoa output.
“They can use elephant grass by putting it on the floor and should be about six inches from the surface of the floor and spread the cocoa; this system produces the best of aroma,” he said.
The target of the state, according to Oyebade, is to produce 2,400 tonnes of quality cocoa annually. He said that unlike oil, more companies are looking for cocoa beans to service their factories, specifying that not less than 125 factories utilise cocoa directly in China.
The Deputy Governor of the State, Alh. Abdulazeez Oluboyo, who until appointment in April was the Commissioner fof Agriculture, said the administration has created an enabling environment for agriculture to excel with a design to create employment for the youth.
According to him, this Cocoa project is not only to increase the production of cocoa in the state but also to earn revenue to sustain the state economy.
He revealed that up to 100 hectares of old cocoa plantations have been rehabilitated while about 60 hectares of land of new plantation have been established. At that speed of the project, in four or five years, the whole 2,000 hectares of land for cocoa plantation abandoned by other administrations will be fully utilized, he said.
The Ondo state government has promised more employment opportunities for its unemployed youth in the new year, especially through agriculture.
According to the state’s Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade the government ‘s revolution in the agricultural sector is intended to reduce the rate of youth employment in the state. He revealed that a modern factory that will utilise and process premium quality cocoa beans produced in the State will begin production of chocolate bars by April.
The factory will utilise the facilities of the Cocoa Catalytic Factory in Idanre, which would be run by a foreign technical partner, Spagnvola Chocolatier of Spain and has the capacity to produce enough for local consumption and for export.
He mentioned the government’s desire to strengthen relationship with the European Union (EU) with a view to providing international market for the commodities produced in the state.
According to him, plans are almost concluded to ensure cocoa products in the state gain commodity pricing and value at the stock exchange market.
He said government recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta to further improve agricultural development in the state, sustain economic development and create employment opportunities for the teeming youths across the state.