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Cocoa Rebirth Policy Was A Total Failure – Oladimeji Filani

Oladimeji Olajire Filani holds as MBA degree of the University of Technology Owerri and a Bachelor of Technology in Applied Geophysics of the Federal University of Technology Akure.

Filani is an expert in agric commodities procurement with core competence in cocoa beans procurement, warehousing  and shipping. He has worked with topnotch global commodities companies, representing their interests in Nigeria. He worked with the likes of Callebaut AG Sourcing, Zurich Switzerland, Alamajaro Trading London/Almajaro Nigeria Limited among many others. He spoke to SIAKA MOMOH on the business of cocoa in Nigeria.

The administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo in 2005 came up with Cocoa Rebirth policy to boost cocoa production and marketing. What is your assessment of the execution of the policy?

As far as I can see, it was all politics.  The concept was a good policy, but the drafting and the implementation was totally wrong.  The money meant for it ended in politicians’ pockets.

 I read in the papers then about government officials claiming that Nigeria’s annual cocoa production had gone up to 400,000mt. It was a serious smokescreen to cover and justify the humongous amount of money ear-marked for it. If it was so, cocoa is not an arable crop; 400, 000mt should have transformed into a big volume today.

Would you say the policy was successful?

 The policy was a total failure and waste of money.

But aall thanks to few European cocoa trading concerns operating in Nigeria and probably the government of Cross River State. No other cocoa producing states in Nigeria is investing significantly in cocoa rehabilitation and production.

 Various interventions like sustainability and certification is being carried out by buyers of Nigeria cocoa beans because of emerging policies from the consuming nations.  We have experienced training of our cocoa farmers in good agriculture practices through use of safe and acceptable fungicides and herbicides, environmental protection, disposal of chemical packages, how to prevent deforestation.

All these are some of the intervention activities of the foreign buyers of Nigeria cocoa beans. Several years of collection of EEGs by cocoa traders has not in any way positively affected the production and grinding capacity and capability of cocoa business in Nigeria.

States like Ondo, Osun, Ekiti, Edo, Oyo and Ogun should double their efforts by investing more in production of cocoa beans. Nigeria can produce more and better-quality cocoa beans if the federal government and the states that are suitable for cocoa production have the political will to do it.

Why can’t we invest and reinvest in cocoa production and whatever revenue we earn from this venture should rival what we are getting from oil and gas production, and even solid minerals.

What is your assessment of the quality of cocoa beans in Nigeria?

Remember Nigeria depended on revenue from agricultural commodities before oil was discovered in commercial quantities. Why was it abandoned? The West African belt soil is good for cocoa production, Ghana and Ivory Coast our neighbours, are producing good quality and sizeable quantity of cocoa beans. If all necessary agencies used in the 60s and 70s are energized and given the required backing as of old and government can partially be involved, sure, Nigeria cocoa quality will improve

Cocoa research institute in Nigeria is just there functioning just like civil a service department. Go to Ibadan, Akure and even Calabar; the institute has  nothing to write home about.

Some years ago, I met Prof  Malachy O. Akoroda, who was the director general of the institute  then. He said, the budgetary provision “is just to pay salaries and buy fuels for cars”. “Nothing for research”. Compare that to Crig in Ghana, it is something else. The environment and the offices are not even good enough for human dwellings.

So our farmers are not gaining anything from the research institute.  Let them come out and show case what they came out with in the last 10 years.

About 30,000 farmers  grow cocoa in Nigeria and most of them are small-holder farmers. Are you comfortable with this picture?

From the statistics  on various companies buying cocoa in Nigeria,  I can confirm that the number of cocoa farmers in Nigeria are more than 30,000.  But unfortunately, the farmers are ageing.  We need serious policies and interventions to encourage young people to go back to farming.  In the next few years, we may not have enough people who are interested in farming.

Let our governors provide water, good roads, electricity, schools, health facilities and even internet to our rural areas to discourage young people from emigrating to the cities.

What challenges are Nigerian cocoa farmers and exporters confronted with?

Challenges producers and exporters are facing are local issues.  Let government agencies return to the field and do their jobs as expected.  FPIS, state produce inspection services, pest control officers should be allowed to do their jobs. Government should address   chemical issues – provision of fungicides and herbicides – they should let acceptable ones by the consuming nations be available for our farmers to use -ppackaging materials – hhydrocarbon treated jute bags are what are suitable for cocoa beans packaging.  They should be duty free.

 Beneficiaries of government intervention policies should be called upon to justify the humongous amount of money they have collected from government.  After all, such money is  meant for improvement of production and quantity of cocoa beans in Nigeria.

Can you please speak to the current marketing structure of cocoa in the country? There are two middlemen between farmers and exporters -small traders and wholesalers. Do you see this as a comfortable arrangement?

Let government come up with a commission similar to what we have in oil producing states. The commission will make implementation of policies on cocoa far reaching and sustainable.

The value chain is so important so as to offer employment to lots of Nigerians. The current arrangement is superbly ok. But, with a commission of cocoa producing states, the office can regulate the way and manner every one on the value chain can operate.

 I am not in support of commodity markets.  But on a sincere level, I will want government to be partially involved in cocoa beans trade in Nigeria.

Our forex has a lot to do with our export, local productions and manufacturing.  Our appetite for foreign goods is a reflection of what we are experiencing.

Many countries depend largely on agriculture and taxation.  Our government should please encourage people to go back to the farm. We should not see farming as job for the poor. Security is an important issue. Many Nigerians are running away from the farm because of kidnapping. But if well managed with security of men and properties, agriculture can leapfrog Nigeria out of our present financial difficulties and provide jobs for numerous people.

Efforts have been made severally to add value to cocoa beans before exporting, but this move has continuously failed, the latest being Multitrex. What is the problem? How do we solve this problem?

Processing/ Grinding of cocoa beans is a way of creating jobs and adding values to what we produce before exporting, but to make it lucrative, the cost of fund in Nigeria should be looked at seriously, cost of energy too.  With constant electricity the cost of energy and sustainability will be there. But buying diesel is seriously having a huge impact on factories in Nigeria. This is not an issue for only cocoa processors but for every manufacturing outfit in Nigeria.

Editor’s Note

Agribusiness, done efficiently, can take us out of our present woods. There in no debating it. If we add value to our agric commodities and export them, we will earn more money in foreign exchange. Forget petro-dollar and explore the entire value chain in agriculture and smile to your bank.

We are continuing  our journey of checking out of the mono-economy syndrome which we began over a month ago. Remain on board with us as we bring you our narration on Cocoa Rebirth and other stories in our resourceful package this week.

Only in EnterpriseNow!

Please send your contributions to SIAKA MOMOH through siakamomoh@yahoo.com or send Whatsapp message to 234 806 139 6410

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With Siaka Momoh

Cocoa rebirth

This story is sourced from Achives Siaka-Momoh

 We had it so good with cocoa in the past, just like we did well with some other agricultural commodities like palm oil, and cotton.  But at a point, there was neglect. Our love for crude oil bestowed on us the rent economy. Nigerians came to love big and quick business. Before we knew it, the cocoa trees had aged producing fewer beans. We could cut down old trees and replant, planting new breed seedlings that would grow faster and produce more tonnage per hectare of land.

Thank God, we knew better latter. Cocoa rebirth programme was launched by the Federal Government in 2005 by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. Worried about the deteriorating status of cocoa in Nigeria, a product that was one of the frontline cash crops Nigeria depended on largely in the past, the Federal Government floated the National Cocoa Development Programme. This programme aimed at reviving and restoring cocoa production and marketing in Nigeria to its past glory.  That year, the 14 cocoa producing States raised a total of 5.9 million seedlings which could plant 5,454 hectares of new cocoa farm and were distributed free of charge to farmers. Old plantations were also rehabilitated through the application of agrochemicals and better husbandry practices.

In order to sustain and improve on these performances, Mr. President launched a special programme tagged “Cocoa Rebirth” in Ibadan, Oyo State in order to create awareness of the wealth creation potentials of  cocoa, promote increase in production, attract youth into cocoa cultivation, and help raise funds for the development of the industry. The Ibadan event was replicated in Yola, Adamawa State.  As a follow-up to this, a National Cocoa Day was fixed for every second week of February, flagged off in 2006.

Cocoa rebirth may have been successful after all, what with a record production figure of 500,000 tonnes in 2007, according to a BGL Agriculture Report.  This figure, one must say, is suspect (bloated). May be the explanation for this may be to admit that leakages accounted for the possible excess figure. The report also stated that in 2009, it was announced that cocoa producing states increased from 14 that it was earlier in the year to 20, although 80 per cent of production output recorded came from five traditionally advantaged states.

As the cocoa rebirth policy incentives took hold, according to the report, the industry attracted greater private sector participation in three to five years. It is however regrettable that the alarming analysis reiterated the underlying structural deficiency which is the fact that a Nigerian chocolate industry is non-existent as a result of many years of structural weakness particularly transport and electricity.

 “Although recent reforms have sought to address these problems, the long-term actions have been weakly implemented. It is noteworthy that the surge in the financial markets in 2006/2007 fed into successful capital raising for top local grinding companies like Multi-Trex Plc and FTN Cocoa Processors,” the report said. 

 In an exclusive interview with this writer years back, the Ondo State Commissioner for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forest Resources then , Jibayo Oyebade  said,  “There is no cocoa rebirth in place yet(Ondo State accounts for about two-thirds of cocoa production in Nigeria. To give new life to cocoa, you need to start from the farm. And cocoa rebirth is not distribution of seedlings. The first thing to do is actual rehabilitation. Cocoa rebirth has not started at all, this is personal to me.

“ For me, cocoa rebirth  is clearing to reduce heating, hard pruning to determine canopy, then replanting of seedlings and replanting of seedlings must be backed with the first dry season watering. That is the only time we can have survival rate that is high.”

 He said “There is no feedback statistics on the mortality rate of the seedlings given out, that he could recall his Governor asking him what the value addition on product increase these seedlings being provided would account for. I gave reasons to support that it is Government that will go into replanting. I told him Farmers Congress tonnage on cocoa, that is rebate, should be increased to contribute to fund for development of cocoa. Government should push good money into it, and for life cocoa will continue to be in demand since consumption rate will continue to increase.”

 The first step in cocoa rebirth, according to Oyebade is rehabilitation. “It is a good idea.  For me, they have not started at all. Copper sulphate is not rebirth, seedlings supply is not up to 10 per cent of cocoa rebirth. There is no statistics to tell us how much value the supply of a particular tonnage of seedlings has added to cocoa production.”

 Meanwhile, according to the former International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO) Executive Director Jan Vingerhoets, with good extension services, worldwide average cocoa yield per kilogramme can be increased by 150 per cent. Average cocoa yields worldwide are around 600 kg per hectare, higher than the 500 kg/ha average of the 1970s but a fraction of the 1,000-1,500 kg/ha levels researchers had found were possible with good extension services, Vingerhoets said.

 “It should be possible to produce much more cocoa on a much smaller area of land. However, if successful, that could easily result in a considerable overproduction, with a disastrous effect on prices and thus on the incomes of the cocoa farmers.”

“Diversification could prevent overproduction of cocoa and diversify the income sources of the farm families. In the case of Cote d’Ivoire, I would, for example, think of products such as rice, rubber and palm oil as options for diversification,” he said. Many cocoa farming families in West Africa, which produces the overwhelming majority of the world’s cocoa, live below the poverty line, Vingerhoets told  a workshop, which was focusing on the use of child labour on cocoa farms.

The present administration’s agriculture Transformation Agenda is furthering cocoa rebirth. It calls it Cocoa Transformation Agenda. The team leader, Cocoa Value Chain Development of the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, Dr. Peter Aikpokpodion has noted that the cocoa transformation agenda of the Federal Government has a target of doubling cocoa production in the country from 250,000 metric tons in 2011 to 500,000 metric tons by 2015. This is more like it.

As part of efforts to attain this objective, Aikpokpodion revealed, the Government plans to set up a Cocoa Corporation which will be burdened with the responsibility of addressing all issues relating to the production and marketing of the commodity in the country. “Once the Cocoa Corporation becomes operational this year, it is expected to facilitate the increase of production to the targeted 500,000 metric tons by 2015”, Aikpokpodion said.

According  him,  “In 2012, Nigeria had an increase in production as the record provided by the Federal Produce Inspection Service domiciled with the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, captured the figure of cocoa export as amounting to 300,000 metric tons. It also gave us a figure of 350,000 metric tons as of July 2013” .For him, the increased production is as a result of the Cocoa Growth Enhancement Scheme (GES) which he said is different from the regular GES for other aspects of agriculture, as it is tailored to meet the critical input needs of cocoa farmers – such as agro-chemicals to counter black pod diseases, insect that attack the pods and also fertilizer to make sure the cocoa trees produce well.

“A study carried out recently shows that not many Nigerian farmers use fertilizer but I can tell you that last year, we succeeded for the first time to introduce a specifically formulated fertilizer for cocoa” he said, while lamenting that at 350,000 metric  tons, Nigeria is well behind Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, in terms of production.

QUALITY HEALTHCARE SERVICE with Kola Owolabi

How Long Should A Patient On Appointment  Sit In The Waiting Room? (1)

Research has showed that patients hate to keep waiting in the waiting room to see the physician, even when they are on appointment. The quality rating of the hospital in the eyes of the patient drops significantly the longer he is to wait to be attended to. On the other hand, when he finally gets to see the doctor, research has also showed that the patient likes to stay as long as possible once he goes in to see the doctor. So, with the patient, when he is allowed to stay as long as he wants, once he is inside the room of the doctor, that hospital enjoys a high quality rating.

From the perspective of the hospital or the physician himself, his own thoughts are diametrically opposed to that of the patient. If there is a long queue of patients, he wants to quickly dispose of each one. The patient is waiting patiently and once he gets in to see the doctor, before he or she is satisfied that he has been sufficiently listened to, he is hustled out to either go for a test (where he also will be kept waiting) or asked to proceed to the next stage of the attention he is to be given at that facility.

So what does the physician, who wants to enjoy high quality rating with his target market do, in view of the dilemma he is constantly confronted with. Does he go on with the endless chase for money, in which he wants to attend to as many patients as possible in the course of a single day, or does he want to satisfy the patient who wants to spend as little time as possible in the waiting room and spend as much time he likes once he gets in to see the doctor?

The issue of patient satisfaction is central to the quality rating any healthcare establishment will ever enjoy. Hospitals are truly rated all over the world, not based on the sophistication of their operating equipment, but on how much the patient, who is the customer, enjoys the service he is given in his interaction with that healthcare establishment. In a world where research figures are showing a terrible lack of quality attention to patients even in the developed world, healthcare organizations are expected to demonstrate top notch concern for the patient above anything else. In the United States of America of recent, it was discovered that medical errors were the third largest cause of deaths, only behind cancer and respiratory disesases. Medical errors tell everything about the quality of service that is given in our hospitals. If the case of the United States of America is that bad, then we should not talk about the quality of service that is meted out to patients in a developing country like Nigeria.

In our next post, we look at what time, in terms of length of waiting shall a patient be subjected to and how long he should be allowed to stay with the physician once he is finally ushered in.

Kola Owolabi:- (FIMC) Fellow of the Institute of Management Consultants (with certifications in Healthcare Organizations Operations and Qualify Improvement in Healthcare Organizations)

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Kola Owolabi is the Principal Consultant of Healing Balm Health Consult, a Healthcare Consultancy services organization involved in the training of healthcare practitioners, particularly on issues concerning putting in place quality improvement culture . He has consulted for prominent Healthcare organizations in the world, including the United States largest maker of minimally invasive cardiological devices, Nigeria’s most prominent firm of opthalmologists and opticians and several others.

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