The global demand for coconuts and derivatives increased by over 500 per cent in the last five years, underscoring the huge economic potential yet to be explored by Nigeria, the Director of Lagos Coconut Development Authority, Mr Dapo Olakuleyin, has said.
Olakuleyin said this while lamenting underproduction of coconuts during a seminar organized by First African Coconut Company at Four Point by Sheraton Hotel, Vitoria Island, on Thursday, adding that most farmers were not planting coconuts because they had not realized the economic implications of doing so.
Despite Lagos becoming the hub for coconut trading in Africa, where Ghana, Togo and other countries play big, Nigerian farmers are yet to take advantage of the huge opportunity.
He regretted that every drop of coconut oil used in sugar refineries in Nigeria is imported, saying the capital-intensive nature of industrial coconut value addition and low production as a result of old plantations and varieties have retarded industrialization of the crop.
He said without agricultural subsidies, farmers could not produce profitably in Nigeria because of high cost of production, absence of basic infrastructure and grossly inadequate and costly power supply.
He said: “If you do not have passion for agriculture, do not go there. As good as agriculture is, there are challenges. Without subsidies, farmers cannot break even, even in the economies with sophisticated technologies.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “Nigeria is not subsidizing production but consumption. That is wrong.”
Executive chairman of First African Coconut Company, Mr John-Bede Antonio, said his attempt to source coconuts from Nigeria to meet an order in the United States of America met a brick wall, making him to discover that over 2 million coconut trees in Lagos State were mostly planted around 1876, and that they are old low-yielding varieties.
The export demand could not be met because home consumption is augmented by importation from Benin Republic, Ghana and Togo.
The mission of the company, Antonio said, includes planting at least 2 million coconut trees in Lagos in the next four to five years; plant at least 10,000 hectares of coconuts in 22 states of the federation; employ 100,000 workers on plantations in each state and advocating planting of at least two coconut trees in each house.
A minimum of N2.5 million return yearly on one hectare of coconut is assured with intercropping with arable crops, he explained.
Source: The Guardian