‘Nigeria not in the red list of Cocoa importing countries’
In recent times, there have been growing concern over the billions of naira worth of foreign exchange lost by Nigeria to the incessant rejection of its agro produce internationally.
Investigations revealed that in the last eight years, the country has lost about $2.9b to the ban on the export of dried beans alone, by the European Union (EU).
It was also gathered that the country lost over N20b to the ban on the exportation of catfish placed by the United States of America (USA), a development that has forced many farmers and investors to abandon the sector.
A handful of other farm produce has also been suspended in the international community due to the alleged nonchalant attitude of the Federal Government and regulatory agencies.
When the news filtered in a few weeks ago on the purported ban of Nigeria cocoa beans by countries in Europe, farmers and stakeholders in the sector were not only shocked, they were embarrassed that these foreign countries have lost confidence in food and other products from Nigeria.
The reports said it is because Nigerian cocoa producers do not meet the maximum residue limits set by the EU for agricultural produce, including cocoa, and that the EU had issued a notification to that effect.
But the Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) has debunked the report, noting emphatically that there is no such decision by EU countries or any country whatsoever.
CAN National President, Mr. Moruf Abolarinwa, told The Guardian that as a member of the Council of International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), which discusses and agrees on all international regulations for implementation on cocoa, that no such issue has come before the ICCO.
He said: “No such communication has also come to Cocoa Association of Nigeria, which was established in 1986 as the umbrella body for all cocoa stakeholders, from research, through farming to input provision, trade, export, processing, manufacture and consumption.
“When issues surrounding MRLs came up about 15 years ago, CAN championed the sensitisation of members, particularly the farmers, on the dangers of improper and inappropriate use of pesticides in cocoa production and we worked with Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Crop Life Nigeria, input importers and distributors, and development agencies in the cocoa space, as well as undertook practical demonstration throughout all the cocoa producing states in Nigeria.
“We can confidently affirm that at no time was Nigeria in the red list of any cocoa importing or consuming country, then or now. We cannot hide from the reality that there had been incidences of poor, adulterated and sometimes abused pesticides in cocoa production, but with regular interaction with farmers, increased training for exporters and capacity building among farmers on best agricultural practices in cocoa.”
He added that spraying gangs had been trained and deployed by different groups within the industry that support farmers in application of approved agrochemicals for cocoa.
“It is also noteworthy that CRIN has issued a regularly updated list of approved pesticides for cocoa, which is strictly and generally adhered to by our members. On top of this, is the fact that most of our farmers have been captured in the global traceability net. A large number of our farms have been mapped and farmers are periodically trained on GAP and responsible pesticide usage.
“This qualifies them for premium, which is paid in hundreds of millions of naira every year. Nigeria currently produces over 270,000 metric tons of cocoa and nearly 80 per cent is exported as beans.
“It is unimaginable how anyone could then present Nigerian cocoa farms and farmers in bad light. It is quite unfortunate and should not be disseminated among us, especially at a time when the social media thrives in negative news,” he said.
Abolarinwa said CAN wishes to affirm that there is no threat about banning Nigerian cocoa from any buyer, adding that as a practitioner in the industry, stakeholder’s livelihood is built on income from cocoa.
“We have invested and continue to invest billions of naira in our businesses, as a way of contributing our quota to the economy and provide sustainable jobs for millions of women and youth, even as we support our host communities in the provision of social amenities in diverse ways.
“In spite of the neglect of the industry and the myriad of challenges that we face, Cocoa is still Nigeria’s number one non-crude oil foreign exchange earning commodity. Our contribution to the nation’s economy exceeds N400b per year from sale of cocoa beans and secondary products. There are over 500,000 cocoa farmers in 14 major cocoa producing states, over 100,000 factors and licensed buying agents.
“There are nearly 50 major local cocoa exporters, over 20 foreign exporters all of who employ hundreds of thousands of Nigerians. This is the real cocoa industry of Nigeria. Our industry is not facing any threats or ban from any angle, whether it be from MRLs or any other health-related issues.” He advised those he called harbingers of false narrative, to desist from such unpatriotic act.