Nigerian Minister Says Cocoa Crop to More Than Double

Nigeria’s cocoa production is expected to more than double within three years after farmers were supplied with better-yielding seeds, Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources Akinwunmi Ayo Adesina said.

Nigeria has given farmers hybrid seedlings to boost yields fivefold, Adesina said in a Sept. 14 interview with Bloomberg Television Africa in Abuja, the capital.

“In another 2 1/2 to 3 years you’re going to see a huge bump in the production of cocoa,” the minister said. “We expect that within a couple of years you will see that jump to 800,000 metric tons” a year.

Nigeria is the world’s fourth-largest cocoa producer behind Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia, according to the London-based International Cocoa Organization. Nigeria produced 240,000 tons this season, according to the organization. The minister estimated production at 350,000 tons.

“We can afford to lose to the Elephants of Ivory Coast and the Black Stars of Ghana in soccer, but not in cocoa,” Adesina said, referring to the national teams of Nigeria’s cocoa-growing rivals. “So we are after them.”

Ivory Coast produced 1.73 million tons of cocoa in the current season while Ghana produced 920,000 tons, according to the International Cocoa Organization. Cocoa futures traded in London jumped 16 percent this year to 2,005 pounds ($3,269) a ton today on the Liffe exchange.

Nigeria also is expanding rice production as part of a government drive to reduce annual food imports of more than $10 billion, Adesina said.

Rice Exporter

The country, Africa’s most populous nation of about 170 million people, aims to become a net exporter of rice in three years, the minister said.

“Every single day, I have people coming to my office who want to do rice, not import,” said Adesina, citing Singapore-based Olam International Ltd and Nigeria’s Dangote Group’s investments. Olam said in 2012 it was investing $50 million in its rice farm in the central Nasarawa State. Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote is investing $1 billion in local rice production.

“Rice is the most profitable commodity in Nigeria,” with a rate of return for investing in rice sitting between 42 and 45 percent, Adesina said. Nigeria would first have to become self-sufficient, he said.

Nigeria produced about 2.77 million tons of rice and imported 3 million tons in the 2013-14 marketing year, according to the U.S. Agriculture Department. The gap between output and annual local consumption of 6 million tons, the biggest in Africa, was met from stocks.

Monsanto, Syngenta

Nigeria also imported 4.55 million tons of wheat, the most in sub-Saharan Africa, and 1.47 million tons of sugar.

As part of its drive to boost local crop production Nigeria is encouraging seed companies to set up and expand and is considering legalizing the use of genetically modified seeds and food.

Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seedmaker, and Syngenta AG, the fourth-largest, are among the companies expanding operations in Nigeria as the country seeks to pass regulations to allow the use of GMOS.

GMOs, which are permitted in South Africa, are barred in many African countries and the European Union bans the cultivation of most biotech crops.

No Apologies

“I make absolutely no apologies at all for Nigeria to use modern science,” Adesina said. “What is important is regulation. You have to make sure that you are regulating properly, that you’re looking at impact and the risks and you are managing them.”

Concerned that farmers often lose as much as half of their harvest, the government is working with investors who plan to put $250 million in building warehouses that “will help us significantly in reducing the losses,” Adesina said. The creation of 14 “staple crop processing zones” will further help reduce losses, potentially adding $9 billion to the GDP, he said.

The government also plans to start a micro-insurance program for farmers against setbacks such as drought and flooding.

“I pray quite a lot, but I don’t believe African or Nigerian farmers have to wake up in the morning to pray before they sow, pray after harvest, pray for every single thing,” the minister said.

Nigerian farmers have suffered from the encroachment of the Sahara desert and violence from a four-year Boko Haram insurgency that seeks to impose Islamic rule. More than 350,000 people in the northeastern states, where the violence is fiercest, fled their homes in the first seven months this year, according to the National Emergency Management Agency.

Adesina said that violence has disrupted the production of some 400,000 farmers out of 14 million in the country, compromising less than 4 percent of national production. He said the government was providing additional support to farmers in other areas to compensate for the loss.

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