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By NBF News
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THE Federal Government plans to increase cocoa production from the present 300,000 tonnes  to 500,000 tonnes by 2015, says Dr Akinwunmi Adesina, the Minister of  for Agriculture and Rural Development.

Adesina said this in Abuja during an interactive session with the reformed Cocoa Development committee.According to him, ' with the release of eight hybrid breed cocoa species by the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), the country could achieve the production of one million tonnes in subsequent years.

He said that the government had adopted a holistic approach toward improving cocoa production which included collaborating with the 22 cocoa producing state governments. In this regard, he said that efforts were ongoing to put in place a cocoa investment fund and create new financial instrument with the banks under the value chain system.

The minister also said that strategies had been put in place for the replacement of old cocoa trees and also to create seedlings for nurseries across the cocoa producing states for easy access to farmers.

Adesina challenged the committee to work out modalities towards setting up a corporation to ensure that Nigeria's cocoa industry was productive, efficient and competitive in the global market.

He said that for easy implementation of programmes, the CBN had included cocoa in the 450-billion-dollar Nigerian Incentive Base Risk Sharing for Agricultural Lending.

Responding, Mr Akin Olusuyi, the President, Cocoa Processors of Nigeria, commended the efforts of government towards repositioning cocoa production under the value chain system, saying that it would enable farmers to have have value for their efforts.

Olusuyi recalled that cocoa had made impact in the nation's economy in the past, but lost the glory due to the neglect of the agricultural sector. He stressed the need for political will to ginger stakeholders to key into the new initiatives.

Meanwhile, Ms Lois Sankey, the Acting Head Agric-Finance, Diamond Bank, urged the government to factor micro finance banks into the transformation agenda, to enable rural farmers have easy access to finance. The 20-member committee was drawn from the cocoa industry and financial institutions.