The Abia Government says it will resucitate the state-owned cocoa processing industry to boost production of the commodity and enhance economic fortunes of the State.
The State Deputy Governor, Mr. Ikechukwu Emetu, announced this on Tuesday during a meeting with the members of the State Cocoa Transformation Committe in Umuahia.
He said that Nigeria was the largest exporter of cocoa after Cote D’Ivoire, hence the state government was poised to explore the entire value chain in the production and processing of the commodity.
He added that government would provide funding and training for cocoa farmers to adopt improved ways of farming to boost production of the produce.
“We are determined to make Abia State one of the largest producers of cocoa in Nigeria,” he said.
Emetu said that the meeting was to acquaint the farmers with government’s policy thrust on cocoa production and as well remind them of the imperatives of cocoa production.
He explained that cocoa production contributed towards enhancing food security, good nutrition, organic fertilisers, raw materials for industries and served as a source of foreign exchange.
The deputy governor expressed displeasure over the leasing out of Agbozu Cocoa Estate, a government- owned property, in Uzuakoli, Bende Local Government Area of the State.
He directed the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Okey Ihedioha, to furnish him with the lease agreement for further necessary action.
In his remarks, Ihedioha said that the state was blessed with cocoa producing belts in areas such as Ibere community in Ikwuano LGA and Itumbuzo community in Bende LGA.
He said that with encouragement and adequate support from the government, the state would record improved cocoa production.
Mr. John Kalu, the State Chairman of the Cocoa Farmers Association, said that Abia was ranked 8th among cocoa producing states which created room for improvement.
Kalu urged the government to subsidise the rates of inputs and distribute improved cocoa seedlings to farmers for mass production and bumper harvest.
The representative of Cocoa Institute Of Nigeria, Mr. Prince Olaniyi, expressed disappointment that the only government-owned cocoa plantation had been leased out.
He said out of the cocoa-producing states, Abia had one of the best cocoa seeds nationwide.