Open Forum on Agricultural Biotechnology advises the Nigerian federal government to embrace the latest trend in agricultural business in order to transform the agricultural sector
Open Forum On Agricultural Biotechnology, OFAB, Africa, Nigeria chapter, has called on the federal government to embrace biotechnology, the latest trend in agricultural business, in her bid to transform the agricultural sector and impact on the lives of the citizenry. The June edition of the monthly forum held on Thursday, June 28, at the Premier Hotel, Ibadan, Oyo State, with the theme: ‘Biotechnology for improved cocoa production in Nigeria’ focused on the impact biotechnology could have on cocoa production.
In her presentation at the event, Feyi Okelana, executive director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria, CRIN, Ibadan, said that cocoa, a crop which contributes about 38 percent to the nation’s gross national product, GDP, the single largest non -oil foreign exchange earner for Nigeria, also serves as a source of income and employment generation for many farmers in about 14 cocoa producing states of Nigeria. Unfortunately, she noted, cocoa is produced below the potential capacity in Nigeria.
Okelana lamented that Nigeria has not moved near the optimum production capacity, indicating that, cocoa production in the country is inefficient, unsustainable and non profitable. She identified some factors responsible for this anomaly. Some of the factors include ageing cocoa trees, ageing farmers, poor access and use of inputs, low yielding planting materials and myriad of insect pests complex. Other factors are diseases, little or no fertiliser use in spite of nutrient depletion in many cocoa plantations, illiteracy of the farmers, and poor infrastructures among others.
She explained that cocoa improvement in Nigeria through conventional methods has gone through the stages of selection and breeding of superior cocoa genotypes which are tolerant to cocoa swollen shoot virus and black pod disease, high yield and early maturity. Other stages are in the areas of soil testing, site selection/evaluation, identification of suitable shade trees for young cocoa and development of appropriate agronomic techniques from the nursery stage to full maturation.
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