No fewer than 260,000 hybrid cocoa seedlings have been distributed to cocoa farmers by the Akwa Ibom government for Cultivation in the state.
The commissioner for agriculture, Dr Offiong Offor, while flagging off the 2022 cocoa seedlings and farm inputs distribution at Odoro Ikpe, Ini Local Government Area, recently, said the exercise was the Akwa Ibom government’sway of empowering farmers to boost agricultural production in the state.
Offor, who distributed Knapsack sprayers, irrigation containers, harvesters, foot wears, cocoa seedlings, among other things, to farmers, said the gesture was taken by the state government to further agricultural development in Akwa Ibom.
The commissioner said Akwa Ibom is one of the 14 cocoa producing states in the country where the cash crop ismassively grown in 22 out of the 31 local government areas of the state.
She noted with delight that government’s encouragement of farmers in the production of the cocoa has given rise to the about 8,252 number of cocoa farmers in the state as against the negligible number before the present administration.
Her words: “The state government has over the years empowered cocoa farmers with hybrid cocoa seedlings, agro-chemicals and sprayers. The efforts of state government have earned the state the position of medium producer with the capacity of 4,000 metric tonnes of dry cocoa beans.”
The commissioner appreciated Gov Udom Emmanuel for his unparalleled commitment to the attainment of food sufficiency in the state as exemplified in the distribution of various farm inputs, funding and training of farmers in different commodities that have been seen in the life of his administration.
Offor explained that the distribution exercise to the Akwa Ibom farmers at Odoro Ikpe by the government was intended to boost cocoa production for local consumption and for export.
Said she, “Cocoa is of significant economic importance, since it generates export revenues, income and employment. Its ingredient is useful in the production of confectionery, food and beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetics products. Therefore, ensuring sustainability of cocoa production is critical, particularly at a time when most young people do not consider farming, including cocoa farming, a viable business choice.”
The commissioner noted that the economic importance of cocoa and the need to encourage youths’ participation in agriculture were the reasons Akwa Ibom government made huge investments by empowering farmers to enhance agricultural production in the state.
She charged the beneficiaries to take full advantage of the opportunity offered them through the inputs distribution for the overall good of the government and people of the state, hinting that her Ministry has put in place a mechanism to monitor the progress of their farms.
Offor was optimistic that in no distant future the government would reap bountifully from the distribution of the cocoa seedlings and farm inputs to farmers in the state.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mrs Mary Ukoette Bassey, recalled with delight that the exercise was a follow up to that of last year for the expansion of cocoa plantations and cocoa production in the state.
Bassey commended Governor Emmanuel for his love and commitment to the development of agriculture as evidenced in the distribution of hybrid cocoa seedlings and essential farm inputs to farmers in the state.
She explained that the flag-off of the 2022 distribution exercise at Odoro Ikpe was because Ini Local Government happens to be the cocoa and rice belt of the state and advised Akwa Ibom parents to encourage their children to be involved in agricultural production for food sufficiency to be achieved in the state.
A retired permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr John Markson, while delivering his goodwill message, recalled with satisfaction what he gained from inter-planting more than 5,500 stands of cocoa crop with plantain suckers in his farm since he left the public service in 2020, noting with delight the income he generated from the bunches of plantains he harvested from the farm.
Markson thanked the state government for encouraging him and Akwa Ibom people to farm, through the provision of cocoa seedlings free-of-charge, assuring that the inputs given to him would be put to optimal use for the objectives of the government in the production of cocoa to be achieved.
The former permanent secretary, who is also a fish farmer, called on young men and women in the state to embrace agriculture in all its ramifications for the much needed food sufficiency to be accomplished in the state.
The state chairman, Cocoa Farmers Association of Nigeria (CFAN), Mr Ekikere Bassey, thanked the Akwa Ibom government for encouraging cocoa farmers in the state to function optimally through the provision of cocoa seedlings and farm inputs.
Bassey, however, appealed to the state government to support cocoa farmers with the establishment of cocoa grading centres so that the quantity of cocoa produced by farmers are graded in favour of Akwa Ibom government.
He noted with dismay that the dearth of cocoa grading centres has opened a window of opportunities forneighbouring states with lesser production of the commodity to be rated higher than Akwa Ibom.