I never gave so much attention to the cocoa industry during all my studies of opportunities for youth in agribusiness. Majorly, I was reluctant because i just had this uneasy feeling about the waiting period of 3 to 5 years before making profit and the fact that it requires some reasonable amount of volume in terms of quantity and quality.
In November 2012, I had a change of heart. I was privileged to listen to the Country Representative of theWorld Cocoa Foundation (WCF) here in Nigeria during the COOL to FARM workshop in Akure, Southwest Nigeria. This prompted me to research some more into the advantages and the opportunities it offers especially for youths.
Cocoa is currently the most important agricultural export in Nigeria due to its numerous usage and functions, that is, cocoa beans can be processed into cocoa cake, powder, butter and into so many other forms. Presently, about six million cocoa farmers exist around the world, out of which over two million small holder farmers came from Africa.
The total value of the top 20 agricultural export for the year was US$1.13 billion, cocoa beans export earnings alone was US$659.9 million as at 2010 with the total annual production for the same year as 3.8 million metric tonne and the annual production for year 2011 was 4.95 million metric tonne. About 50 million people depend on cocoa for their livelihood, which ranges from primary production to chocolate processing in a research conducted by WCF in 2012.
Here in Nigeria, the Federal Government has made known its desire to be involved in agriculture now more than before by setting up the Cocoa Transformation Agenda, Growth Enhancement Scheme. All this initiatives is a signal that the Federal government desires the cocoa sector improvement.
Even at that, over the years, cocoa sector in Nigeria and some African countries has had some major drawbacks. These include
Lack of effective agricultural research and extension thus making it impossible for farmers to meet required demand.
Old age on the part of majority of the farmers. Research shows that that majority of Nigerias cocoa farmers are above 60years and thus a decline in cocoa yield.
Lack of processing facilities.
A lack of proper channelling of fund for research and extension delivery.
THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUTH..
The facts above among many others show the great need for young people to invest in this sector of agriculture. A lot of activities in the value chain of cocoa allows for the engagement of young people. These includes
Input supply- this includes credit providers, agrochemical companies, fertilizer supplies and supply of certified seeds
Establishment of farms, maintenance and management of cocoa farms.
Engaging in research work and extension service.
Off- Farm and Post- harvest handling: this involves primary processing of cocoa beans, marketing and transportation, serving as export agents, produce inspectors and providing business development services for cocoa producers.
Export trade that involves exporting of cocoa beans, cake, powder and butter.
To further catch the young minds attention into cocoa production, a recent study done shows that cocoa is capable of giving farmers (starting from the 4th-5th year of production) a minimum of 600,000 Naira(4000USD) per annum, this is equivalent to 50,000 Naira (335USD) per month( depending on the hectare).
All one needs is to meet the requirements, which includes, diligence, passion, resourcefulness, getting the right training or education, knowledge of Good Agricultural Practice as it relate to cocoa , land and a suitable capital to start-up.