The recent shipment of 7,000 tons of cocoa to the United States of America by a private firm has excited farmers of the crop in the country.
For the past 14 years, this is the first time cocoa will be shipped for export through the Calabar Port.
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Cocoa farmers described the shipment as memorable and historic.
The farmers, especially those in Cross River State, said the new development gave them hope, adding that the state, which is the second largest producer of cocoa in the country, will soon start contributing positively to the sector, and therefore, help in enhancing the fortunes of Nigeria’s economy through cocoa production.
Ikom, Etung and Boki local government areas, in the central part of the state, are the major hubs of cocoa plantations, where big-time entrepreneurs and smallholder farmers have made fortunes over the decades.
Last week, there was excitement for them and the state government at the Ecomarine yard of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Calabar, when Starlink Global and Ideal Ltd gathered cocoa for the maiden shipment outside the country.
At the event, the managing director of Starlink, AdeyemiAdeniji, called on government to provide an enabling environment for local investors, who are willing to ship cocoa from the state regularly.
Chief Benson Ndoma, who has been in cocoa business said, “It is indeed a piece of cheering news for us cocoa farmers in Cross River State. This shipment will encourage us to plant more as wider markets are now demanding for the crop. It will boost our revenues.”
A one-time chairman of Cocoa Association in the state, Alphonsus Nana, said if there was continual government support, cocoa business in the state could bolster not just the state economy but that of the country. He added that cocoa could replace oil as a major foreign exchange earner.
The paramount ruler of Etung, HRM Ntui Atue, Dr Emmanuel Oru, also applauded the effort of cocoa farmers and commended the recent allocation of 70 percent of plantations to landowners and 30 percent to the state government, saying it was equitable.
“The people of Etung are clapping their hands because the allocation and exportation of their cocoa have touched everybody,’’ the royal father said.
The special adviser to the governor on cocoa development and control, Oscar Ofuka, said they had adopted a radical approach to avoid mistakes of past allocations to enable them boost production.
He said, “The idea is to encourage mass participation in cocoa cultivation that will attract investors and exporters. We want more shipments of our cocoa to the outside world from Calabar port.’’
He said the old estates were reactivated to guarantee maximum yield, and 10million improved seedlings have been cultivated and would be planted across the state.
Commenting on the recent shipment and his agro-allied industrialisation programme, Governor Ben Ayade said the state was rich in agricultural resources, especially cocoa, rice, palm fruits, which informs the establishment of industries.
He called on the NPA to expedite action on the dredging of the Calabar channels in order to aid increase in exports.
Represented by the commissioner for commerce, Mrs Rosemary Archibong, the governor said, “It is time for us not to just export raw materials but export processed goods.”
The governor urged the farmers to exploit the massive opportunities the numerous cash crops in the state present.
The Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, said Calabar Port would be made more active now that the federal government is pursuing an economic recovery agenda.
She said, “Calabar Port has not fallen short of revenue generation, which means it is important to us.’’
She called on all shippers and port users within the northern and eastern flanks to utilise the Calabar port and other eastern ports to ship their cargoes abroad.
The Managing Director, Nigeria Export-Import Bank, Abubakar Abba Bello, said the renewed promotion of export through Calabar port would boost the economy of the region and generate employment for the youth.