Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Cross River State Government has disclosed that revenue from farming, particularly Cocoa, has replaced oil revenue as the major source of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) used for infrastructural development and other needs of the state.
The state government explained that since the Supreme Court judgment that ceded 76 oil wells to Akwa Ibom state and Bakassi peninsula to Cameroon some years ago, the state government shifted its attention to farming, particularly Cocoa farming which has proven to be major revenue source for the State.
The Special Adviser to the Cross River State Governor on Cocoa Development and Control, Dr. Oscar Ofuka, told journalists in Abuja, on Wednesday, that the state has displaced some south west states that hitherto pride themselves as major cocoa farmers due to massive investment and support from the state government.
He said: “Traders from some of these south west states now invade our cocoa communities to buy off our cocoa fruits, mix them up with theirs which is obviously of low in quality for sale for use.
“The cocoa seeds we have in Cross River State are the TC 2 seedlings. They grow and produce fruits in 18 months, unlike the conventional ones that take five to six years to grow. They are of improved variety. They don’t grow too tall but short. We have raised millions of these seedlings and distributed them to cocoa farmers in Cross River State.”
He disclosed that, in the last five years, Cocoa farming has offered employment to more than 5,000 youths in the state, majorly through the rehabilitation of the old moribund Cocoa estate and the practice of small holder’s scheme where neglected lands are distributed in small parcel to unemployed youths to farm cocoa.
He added: “Crime rate in the state has reduced drastically in the state because youths who hitherto engage in crimes have been taken off the streets and sent right inside different cocoa plantations where they are deeply involved in cocoa production.
“Unarguably, cocoa plantation has become major funder of infrastructure in Cross River State, and from all indications, in no distant time, we would depend on cocoa for foreign exchange and not oil anymore.”
He strongly advocated that Nigerians should return to Agriculture which has been neglected over the years, stressing that Cocoa farming should be the focus because of its ability to grow anywhere in Nigeria, with a reminder that revenue from Cocoa was used to build legacy infrastructures in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, the governor’s aide disclosed that his Principal, Prof. Ben Ayade, has established ultra modern cocoa processing factory in Cross River State to help in processing the cocoa seeds that would come out from the plantations.