The Honourable Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Alhaji Muhammad Sabo Nanono, on behalf of Federal Government of Nigeria pledges to revive development of cocoa and continuous support to Horticulture Industry in Nigeria. The Minister disclosed this on Tuesday 15th December 2020 during the visit of the Cocoa and Plantain Farmers of Nigeria, under the leadership of the Coordinator and National President, Mr Ayodele Ojo.

In his speech, the National President of the Association, Mr Ayodele expresses his excitement under the auspices of Plantain and Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria to meet with the Honourable Minister and the entire Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development for the all-important meeting.
In his words, we are here today to commend the laudable and deliberate efforts of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. We know that the Ministry has always collaborated with several other bodies at ensuring food security in Nigeria and creating an enabling environment for economic growth through agricultural and rural development programmes.

The agricultural interventions being supported by the Ministry are enormous and many crops and livestock enterprises have been included in the different programmes at different times. The anchor borrowers’ programme and CARES are some of the most recent of such agricultural intervention programmes being supported by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

It amazed us as an association of farmers that have been consistently working to produce plantain and cocoa in large quantities that we were left out of the anchor borrowers’ programme and CARES Project. Although cocoa has been considered under the anchor borrowers’ programme through our sister association and we appreciate you for this. We have well above 28,000 members in 20 states and the Federal Capital Territory. Presently we have more than 20,000 hectares of farm cultivated and a potential to cultivate more than 50,000 hectares if adequately supported (see the attached map).
History has it that before the discovery of oil in Nigeria, the nation depended on agricultural produce which included cocoa and plantain with other crops. The rise in population all over the world increases the demand for food and raw materials for industries.Honourable Minister Sir, plantain value chain, if well harnessed is capable of alleviating unemployment challenges in Nigeria significantly. Plantain has always contributed and is still contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Nigeria.

Plantain is grown in Ondo, Taraba, Cross River, Osun, Kogi, Akwa Ibom, Ekiti, Ogun, Edo, Adamawa, Abia, Oyo, Delta, Kwara, Imo, Benue, Niger, FCT, Kaduna, Lagos and Plateau States. There is this peculiarity of plantain in food security, in that when other farm products are scarce due to one reason or the other, plantain is always available all year round.

However, it is very surprising that other commodities like maize, rice, cassava, cotton, vegetable, cocoa etc. received support under the Anchor Borrower’s Programme while the plantain commodity was excluded. It has also come to our notice that the CARES Project that is in the pipeline also excludes plantain and cocoa commodities. Plantain can serve dual purposes of food and cash crop and is capable to start earning returns on investment in one year just like cassava.

Moreover, many developed nations of the world source for raw materials from Africa and among the crops that attract the highest demand are plantain and cocoa. The farmers need support not only in the production but in expansion and enabling the farmers to meet the international market standards and forms of the crops when exported. There are infrastructure and technologies that are capital intensive and are beyond the reach of farmers, hence the need for the inclusion of the plantain farmers in the anchor borrowers’ programme.

The CARES project has been designed to be a kind of palliative programme. This programme will encourage farmers to return to the farm to guide against food shortages that might result from the adverse effects of COVID-19 pandemic in the nearest future.Therefore, Honourable Minister Sir, we crave for your kind gesture in the following ways:
(i) to recognize the Cocoa and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria as a body all over Nigeria.
(ii) making use of your good offices to ensure the inclusion of Plantain and Cocoa Farmers Association in the anchor borrowers’ programme;
(iii) ensuring that plantain and cocoa farmers are included among the beneficiaries of CARES Project and other ongoing palliative programmes;
(iv) render capacity-building support to plantain farmers be able to meet the international market standard in terms of post-harvest handling and packaging of plantain; and
(v) making sure that Cocoa and Plantain Farmers Association of Nigeria is not left out of all future interventions of the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Minister his response thanked the visitors for their support for holding on to Cocoa Industry despite the neglect of the Government in the past due to the discovery of Crude Oil.

Alhaji Nanono charged the visitors to strengthen their association, be more proactive and enlighten their members. The Minister added that the Ministry will assist the association in various aspects including capacity development and confirmed that Cocoa and Plantain Farmers Association is recognized.

The Minister added that the delegates should structure their association to attract medium-term facilities for the development of Cocoa and production of palm oil, and in this regard, the Federal Government will come to assistance. Adding that the potential for export in the horticulture is very high and Nigeria has the resource base.

In his Conclusion, Alhaji Nanono promised to link the association with the Bank of Agriculture to see how the bank will be able to finance the association requests.
The Association Coordinator, Mr Ayodele thanked the Minister in anticipation of the favourable consideration of the requests and solicited for unflinching and perpetual support to the great network of farmers.