I am privileged to welcome you to this important occasion, the 1st International Cocoa Summit in Nigeria. As you may be aware, the Federal Ministry of Industry Trade and Investment in collaboration with Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN) is organizing the 1st international Cocoa Summit aimed at re-positioning and improving the Cocoa Sub-Sector across the value chain in order to regain its lost glory. The objective of the Summit among others is to create a platform for the industry’s players to exchange ideas, acquaint themselves with new technologies and investment opportunities and also set a roadmap for sustainable development of the Cocoa sub-sector across the value chain particularly increasing production, processing and consumption of Cocoa and Cocoa products in Nigeria.
2. The hosting of the 1st International Cocoa Summit in Nigeria was one of the key decisions taken during the visit to Nigeria by the Executive Director, International Cocoa organisation (ICCO) and the representative of the President and Chairman of the Board of Directors of African export-Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK) on a joint mission to promote the development of the cocoa sub-sector with particular interest in processing and consumption of cocoa and chocolate products in Nigeria. Series of meetings were held during the visit with government officials where key decisions were taken including the hosting of the 1st International Cocoa Summit in Nigeria with a view to re – positioning and improving Cocoa sub-sector to regain its lost glory in line with the renewed Agenda of Government to diversify the nation’s economy from the oil sector to the non-oil sectors particularly agriculture and solid minerals.
3. You may wish to note that Nigeria is the fourth largest producer of cocoa beans in the world after Cote d’ívoire, Ghana and Indonesia. Before the advent of crude oil in Nigeria, cocoa was the main export generating about 90% of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings. Some of the discoveries revealed that consumption of cocoa can prevent heart diseases, diabetes, hypertension, breast cancer, boost brain power, reduces the risk of blood clot, etc.
4. Ladies and Gentlemen, I am glad to inform you that the present administration under the able leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR has demonstrated tremendous efforts to support the deelopement of the cocoa sector through the Agricultural Transformation Agenda, the Cocoa Growth Enhancement Scheme, introduction of high-yielding cocoa varieties increase in local consumption of cocoa and cocoa products etc. Government because of the importance of Agricultural Commodity sector has also put in place policies to promote participation in the Agribusiness and restructuring of national apex Commodity Associations to make it more responsive and effective in service delivery. Other efforts worthy of mention are the provision of adequate and accessible funds to producers, processors and marketers through the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Bank of Industry (BOI), NEXIM Bank, Bank of Agriculture (BA) and other Commercial Banks at affordably low single digit interest rates as well as strengthening commodity related regulatory institutions.
5. At this juncture, I wish to use this opportunity to appeal to our development partners, foreign and local Investors and the Organized Private Sector Groups that despite these efforts by Government sustainable development and growth of the Agricultural sector cannot be achieve without your commitment and support. Hence, the need for this meeting is to facilitate the process for investment and developmental projects to the country in order to consolidate our efforts to deliver on the Change agenda of this present Administration anchored on economic diversification.
6. Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, let me once again welcome you all to this very important meeting. It is my wish that this meeting will bring the needed partnership and collaboration that would lead to sustainable development and growth of the Agricultural Commodities Sector in particular and our economy in general.
7. Thank you all and God bless.