Cross River Government says it is constructing a N7 billion cocoa processing plant in Ikom, Ikom Local Government Area of the state to boost cocoa production. The Governor of the state, Prof. Ben Ayade, said this in Abuja on Monday in an interview with journalists in Abuja, on the sidelines of the First International Cocoa Summit organised by the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.
The governor, represented by Mr Oscar Ofuka, his Special Adviser on Cocoa Development, said the move was also to add value to cocao, being massively produced in the state. Ayade said the state government had planted over 5,000 hectares of cocoa in its cocoa estate, adding that it was formulating a policy that would mandate 70 per cent local consumption of cocoa in the state.
He said that the government was also supporting local cocoa farmers in the state to boost production, to enable them to overtake other states in cocoa production.
‘’We are already trying to make it a policy that, school children in the state will be fed with cocoa related products. We have achieved so much on cocoa production. ‘’Before now, cocoa was relegated to the background. We have been able to raise nursery to expand our cocoa farms. We have government cocoa estate with about 5,000 hectares planted already. The state government has made it as a policy to open new cocoa farms across the state. We have been exporting cocoa all this while but now, government has come up with a policy that will encourage local consumption of about 70 per cent of the cocoa produced in the state. This is to ensure that jobs are created. Cross River is the second largest producer of cocoa in the country with Ondo State as the largest producer but we want to overtake it,’’ Ayade said.
The governor, however, called on private investors and other relevant stakeholders to invest in cocoa production in the state, promising them of an enabling environment for their investments.