MINISTER of Agriculture and Rural Development, Chief Audu Ogbeh has challenged the committee on the re-lunch of cocoa programme in Nigeria to ensure that Nigeria moves from her current position of number seven (7) in world cocoa production to the number one position. The Minister who threw this challenge while inaugurating the committee on the re-launch of the cocoa programme in Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday, January 12, 2017, said that it is a shame that Nigeria that was a major producer of cocoa in the world has gone down to number seven. He asked the committee to involve all persons and farmers that produce cocoa in the country, adding that as they proceed in the task, they should remember the country’s past mistakes in the oil and gas sector where the country misused the opportunity to create jobs and wealth for the citizens. The committee which will be chaired by the Director Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, Dr. Peter Aikpokpodion is made up of some Directors of the ministry, President and Secretary Farmers Commodities Association of Nigeria (FACAN) and the Director Planning and Policy Co-ordination of the ministry to serve as member and secretary. Chairman of the committee, Dr. Peter Aikpokpodion responding on behalf of the other members thanked the government for giving them the opportunity to serve and promise to deliver on the task given to them. It will be recalled that prior to striking the first oil well in Oloibiri, a modest, remote community in Bayelsa State in 1956, Nigeria had shown great potential as a country with a viable agriculture-based economy, especially cash crops such as groundnuts, palm produce, cocoa, rubber and cotton, among others. By independence in 1960, the country ranked indisputably as the leading producer and exporter of palm produce and was second only to Ghana in cocoa production. While palm produce sustained the economy of the then Eastern Region, cocoa was the mainstay of Western Region’s economy, even as the Northern Region anchored its own on groundnuts, cotton, hides and skin, and Mid-Western Region was a major player in rubber and timber. Fishing, done along the coastal stretch and the major rivers, was enough to sustain local consumption. The level of development among the different regions, driven by intense competition, far outstripped what obtains today. The Cocoa House, a showpiece of architectural wonder at the time of its completion in Ibadan, the Western Regional capital, in 1965, symbolised the prosperity that came with cocoa business. It was then reputed to be the tallest building, not just in Nigeria, but in tropical Africa.

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