LAGOS – The U.S. Consul-General in Nigeria, Mr Jeffery Hawkins, yesterday said that Nigeria needed to invest more in cocoa production because of the country’s diminishing production of the crop.
Hawkins gave the advice in Lagos at a one-day “Nigeria Cocoa Investment’’ Summit, organised by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, Afrexim Bank and Olam.
The consul-general said it was imperative for Nigeria to urgently reposition itself toward the development of the agricultural sector.
“Nigeria should know that agriculture is going to play a key role in her overall development.
“Nigeria should know that the global demand for cocoa is rising and presents huge opportunities for Nigerian farmers.’’
Hawkins said there was a recent prediction   that there would be shortage of cocoa globally by 2020.
The envoy urged various levels of government to provide cocoa farmers with modern input and incentives that would boost cocoa production for local and international consumption.
“This sector is not always seen as a viable way for people to earn a living as well as create employment opportunities for young Nigerians,’’ he said.
Dr Peter Aikpokpodion,the Team Leader of Cocoa Value Chain Development of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said that Nigeria was aware of opportunities in cocoa development.
According to him, global demand for cocoa is estimated to reach more than five million tonnes by 2020.
“In the U.S., chocolate consumption has been growing at an average rate of 1.4 per cent annually from 2009 to 2014 and it is expected to grow in the next five years.
“It is predicted that the greatest growth areas for agricultural exports in the coming years will be in cocoa, cashew and sesame,’’ he said.
Aikpokpodion said the Federal Government had recently launched a three-prong strategy that would “ramp up” cocoa production in the country.
He said that the strategy was to maximise cocoa yield per unit land area on the current 650,000 hectares of active plantation, to rehabilitate 200,000 hectares and to expand planting of cocoa.