Cocoa production in Nigeria boasts a rich history and remains a vital agricultural activity in the country, despite encountering various challenges over the years. Here are some key points regarding cocoa production in Nigeria:
Cocoa cultivation in Nigeria dates back to the late 19th century when it was introduced to the country. Initially, cocoa farms were established in Lagos, and cultivation gradually spread to other regions, with the western part of the country emerging as a major cocoa-producing area, closely followed by some southern states.
Today, the major cocoa-producing states in Nigeria include Ondo, Cross River, Ogun, Osun, Ekiti, Delta, Oyo, and Akwa Ibom. These states benefit from favorable climate and soil conditions for cocoa cultivation.
Cocoa is Nigeria’s leading agricultural export. The country ranks as the fourth-largest cocoa producer globally, following Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Indonesia.
Nigeria held the title of the largest cocoa-producing and exporting country in Africa between 1950 and 1970 until the discovery and subsequent investment in the oil sector during the 1970s and 1980s. This diversification into the oil industry significantly affected cocoa production.
Reduced investment in agriculture, particularly in the cocoa-producing sector, led to a decline in its contribution to Nigeria’s GDP. As a result, the country became the third-largest cocoa exporter in Africa (after Ivory Coast and Ghana) in the 1980s.
Although cocoa was a significant foreign exchange earner for Nigeria in the 1950s and 1960s, its share of the country’s agricultural GDP declined significantly over the years. In 2010, cocoa production accounted for only 0.3% of the agricultural GDP.
Several factors have contributed to the decline in cocoa production in Nigeria, including aging cocoa trees, low yields, inconsistent production patterns, diseases, pest infestations, lack of improved cocoa varieties, inadequate investment and funding, as well as insufficient agricultural mechanization.
In the 1980s, Nigeria heeded advice from international organizations like the World Bank and the IMF to liberalize its cocoa marketing sector by dissolving marketing boards. This shift aimed to improve efficiency but did not yield the expected results.
Cocoa remains a significant source of foreign exchange earnings for Nigeria, contributing to about 41.6% of the country’s export earnings and serving as the largest non-oil foreign exchange earner.
Furthermore, in recent years, there has been increased attention on the importance of diversifying the Nigerian economy beyond oil. Government officials and stakeholders have recognized the significance of cocoa production in achieving this goal and ensuring food and nutritional security.
To revitalize the cocoa industry, efforts need to be geared towards addressing challenges such as aging trees, low productivity, and ensuring the availability of processing facilities. Investment in cocoa farming, research, and value addition could help boost production and enhance the cocoa value chain.