NEPC plans to develop C’River cocoa for exportThe Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Export Promotion Council, Mr. Olusegun Awolowo, has said that developing the Cross River State cocoa value chain for export will enhance economic growth. Awolowo spoke through the Deputy Director, National Export Office, NEPC, Mrs. Veronica Oriare, during the Cross River State Cocoa Stakeholders’ Forum and mini exhibition in Ikom Central. The two-day event was organised by NEPC Calabar Smart Office, in collaboration with Calabar Chamber of Commerce, Farming World and Rural Development Initiative and Cocoa Association of Nigeria. While delivering a keynote address at the forum themed, ‘Developing the Cross River State Cocoa value chain for Export’, the NEPC boss said that the agency was working with the Adekunle Ajasin University, Ondo State to increase production and distribution of cocoa seedlings to farmers as well as capacity building on improved processing to achieve premium cocoa for export. He assured the participants that efforts were being made to address the problem of inadequacies and raise awareness about processing of high quality cocoa for export. According to the NEPC boss, there is increased demand as well as higher price offerings for organic cocoa in the global market. He said that as the demand continued to rise, there was a need for Nigeria to increase production of cocoa to partake in the favourable global market. He stated that the demand for cocoa in the United States market moved from 1,113.9 metric tonnes in 2008 to 1,297.7MT by 2014. “This upward movement in demand for cocoa by the US market is expected to continue especially now that the health benefits of consuming cocoa has been overwhelmingly established,” a statement quoted him as saying. The Trade Promotion Advisor, NEPC, Calabar Smart Office, Dr. Emmanuel Etim, said that the council would support the Cross River State Government’s proposed cocoa processing factory in Ikom, development of one million cocoa seedling nursery in Akamkpa and the cultivation of additional 100,000 hectares of cocoa plantation in the state.