Some experts have said the International Coffee Agreement recently ratified by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), should encourage the exportation of high-quality cocoa and spur greater efforts towards creating value-added products from cocoa. They also described the move as timely, saying such an agreement would confer greater legitimacy on Nigerian cocoa exports and create more opportunities and a ready market.

The President had on August 19, 2021 confirmed and ratified the ICA, 2007, following the Federal Executive Council’s approval of Nigeria’s membership of the International Coffee Organization. According to a State House press release issued on the same day, the agreement will strengthen the ICO’s role as a forum for intergovernmental consultations, facilitate international trade through increased transparency and access to relevant information, and promote a sustainable coffee economy for the benefit of all stakeholders and particularly of small-scale farmers in coffee-producing countries.

Speaking to our correspondent, a professor of Political Economy and former presidential aspirant, Pat Utomi, said the country should leverage its competitive advantage to process more cocoa and export mainly value-added products. He said, “Some of these international agreements are generally aimed at ensuring that commodity exports work for the people of the country, not just for a group of middle players and rent extractors.

“Taking on the role of a significant global player may boost the interest of investors into cocoa in Nigeria. There needs to be a renewed commitment. Many of the trees are old now, and we need a significant flow of investments into cocoa. The development strategy that I have advocated for many years now is to increase our ability to process and export value-added products.

“We should look at our latent competitive advantage. We should look to areas where we are endowed and construct global value chains and use a limited kind of industrial policy to boost production within those sectors. Process more and export majorly value-added products, and even become major players globally.”

On his part, a professor of Economics at the Olabisi Onabanjo University, Ogun State, Sheriffdeen Tella, said the new membership put Nigeria in a competitive circle where it can no longer afford to export sub-par cocoa produce. He said, “The new membership will create stronger relationships among member states. There will be some privileges too as regards preference for some members when it comes to buying cocoa.

According to Tella, the membership also opens Nigeria up to a huge opportunity and market. “We must ensure to improve our production. The market will be assured and prices will be reasonable,” he said.

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