Dr Olayiwola Olubamiwa, the Executive Director, Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN), Ibadan, has advocated for rehabilitation of cocoa industry to improve Nigeria’s economy.
Olubamiwa told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Ibadan that the rehabilitation of the industry would serve as panacea to the current economic downturn, occasioned by the crash in oil price in the international market.
He also urged government to help in the development of old cocoa farmers by supporting their training in mechanised cocoa production.
Olubamiwa underscored the need for increase in consumption of cocoa derivatives as well as encouraging youths to go into farming to increase its production.
On ways of stabilising the economy after the coronavirus pandemic, Olubamiwa said concerted and more coordinated efforts should be made on cocoa production as well as other agricultural products.
He called for provision of an enabling environment to improve the youth and women’s participation, encourage local agricultural production and add value to the produce in order to enhance foreign earnings.
“There is the need to engage more youths in cocoa production to serve as replacement for the aging farmers. Their mindsets should be changed and palliatives provided for them, pending the end of gestation period of the crop,” he said.
The executive director, however, noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had impacted negatively on the CRIN research activities through reduction in production and extension activities as well as disruption in experimental research.
He listed other areas to include reduction in collaboration with its various stakeholders, uncertainty of coping strategies and suspension of some research meetings.
To cushion the effects, Olubamiwa emphasised the need for continued sensitisation of the populace on the use of products developed by CRIN, such as cocoa powder, green tea, cashew juice and nuts to build immunity against COVID-19 and other related diseases.
“There should also be development of sustainable coping strategies and continuous sensitisation in the consumption of our products in building immunity and stabilising the prices of our products to enhance farmers’ livelihood
“The impacts of COVID-19 will last until government reverses the decisions on lockdown and sustainable coping strategies of the imminent situation achieved.
“We call on all stakeholders to join hands with us to develop the cocoa and agricultural sector in general, as they can help in reviving the economy, while we hope on God to intervene on the global pandemic,” he said.