The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Sabo Nanono, has said it has become necessary for Nigeria to build its own jute bag factories to aid the export of cocoa and other agricultural produce.

This was disclosed in a statement on Friday by Ezeaja Ikemefuna, the chief information officer in the ministry.

According to the statement, the minister stated this during a visit by the Cocoa Association of Nigeria in Abuja on Thursday.

“The ministry would seek collaboration with the Ministry of Finance, Budget and National Planning in ensuring that appropriate policy measures and counterpart funding were put in place to fast track the setting up of jute bag factories across the nation as well as commence the cultivation of Kenaf, which can grow in any part of the country and happens to be the raw material for the production of jute bags.

”The production of the jute bags in Nigeria will increase foreign earnings, healthy preservation and certification of the cocoa crop,” Mr Nanono said.

He added, “cocoa is one of the commodities being promoted by the present administration in its drive to diversify the economy.

“The ministry is eager to support the farmers with the distribution of free agricultural inputs and training to enhance the capacity of cocoa farmers in the country.”

He said the ministry recently rolled out disease resistant and early yielding seedlings developed by the Cocoa Research Institute, Ibadan, which start yielding within 30 months of cultivation.

“These seedlings with other inputs were distributed to farmers in major cocoa-producing states where 300,000 cartoons of Ultimax – plus fungicides, Hydrocarbon jute bags, collapsible driers, cocoa pods and more were shared to enhance the capacity of cocoa farmers,” he said.

He assured that the ministry will continue to support and collaborate with the association to boost the cocoa value chain sub-sector towards increasing production, creating more jobs and generating revenue for the country.

In his welcome address, the permanent secretary, Afolabi Umakhihe, said that ‘’the agricultural policy put in place by the present government is poised to build an agribusiness ecosystem that will solve the challenges in the agricultural sector in partnership with the state governments to achieve food security, export substitution, job creation and economic diversification.

“Cocoa has been one of the major foreign exchange earners in Nigeria apart from crude oil,’’ he said.

In his remarks, the National President of Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN), Mufutau Abolarinwa, appealed for the establishment of a special credit guarantee scheme for the cocoa farmers in Nigeria for the development and increase in cocoa production.

According to him, the grants and subvention from relevant agencies like Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria (CRIN) and others will enable CAN have access to cocoa pods, inputs and equipment needed for the increase in cocoa production in Nigeria.

“The association has successfully organized workshops and seminars in collaboration with CRIN, FMARD and the state ministries across the cocoa-producing states to improve the quality of cocoa for export and to comply with the European Union regulations on pesticide maximum residue,‘’ he said.

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