By Edward Egbelo.
Few days ago, I embarked on a trip from Calabar to Obudu with a couple of friends.
As we drove through the Ikom/Calabar Federal Highway, we couldn’t help but appreciate nature’s wonder in Cross River State.
As our cameras clipped to capture beautiful sceneries, we saw a state with lots of untapped potentials.
“Infrastructure” refers to the basic physical systems that undergird the “structure” of the economy. There is absolutely no point spending heavily on infrastructure with no direct economic importance. “Direct economic importance” in common economic explanation implies that, the last man in the chain of survival must get something reasonable to survive.
If farmer “A” gets better value for his commodity, then why should farmer “B” get lesser value for same product?
The Governor Ayade economic concept looks beyond those that can get better value because they have the resources to sell their products in highly priced markets, it rather looks at how to create an economic environment for small and large scale farmers to thrive.
What happens to the man that farms because his family mustn’t sleep on an empty stomach? If farmer “A” can own a house and car, farmer “B” also deserves same.
Infrastructure should be able to provide better living for both farmer “A” and “B”. Until infrastructure can provide for the man who knows nothing but farming, it is of no meaningful importance.
On a brief stop in Ikom, we saw lots of Cocoa bean spread at both sides of the road, most of the bean, already loaded in 100kg sack bags ready to be sold off to buyers predominantly from the South West, at a cost much lesser than its worth in the global market.
On interaction with one of the famers, I got to understand that even at the low cost these bean is sold, the famers feel so comfortable with the peanuts they are given for this brown gold. Does this mean our cocoa is of lesser quality unlike that of Côte d’Ivoire that accounts for two-third of the trade revenue the nation gets annually?
No! Then why can’t we get same value Côte d’Ivoire gets for her cocoa? Economic factors!
In the 1950s, 60s and 70s Nigeria was the second largest producer of Cocoa in the world but following investments in the oil sector in the 1970s/80s, Nigeria’s share of world output declined.
Today, cocoa is the leading agricultural export of Nigeria and the country is currently world’s fourth largest producer of cocoa, after Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia and Ghana. But at what cost and value?
If Cocoa can be the major sustainer of the Ivorian Economy, why can’t we replicate same in Nigeria? The big question here is, “What happens when oil loses its value at the global market, or sweeps itself off the shores of Nigeria”. For cocoa to thrive in Nigeria, there is urgent need to revisit the economic architecture of the country.
Cross River State as one of the leading producers of cocoa in Nigeria has a critical role to play. Cross River State needs to go beyond just farming cocoa.
About a kilometer or two out of the Ikom Town center lies an edifice with a beautiful architectural design. It is the Ikom Cocoa Processing Factory. One amongst many laudable projects of the Cross River State Governor, Professor Ben Ayade.
It is one factory that will give value to Cocoa grown in the state and will also make Cocoa farming lucrative. Already at its completion stage, the cocoa processing factory is what the cocoa industry in Cross River State lacked, it is the beginning of a new era. And then what happens after Ayade? Well, as long as cocoa farming continues to hold its grip in Cross River State, the factory will never run out of raw materials to keep it running. It is a win-win for both government and cocoa farmers.
In the words of another farmer “the number of persons into cocoa farming today have increased as compared to what it used to be, certainly because there is a cocoa processing factory today in Cross River State, awaiting take off”.
“There is a new money in town! One that gives local farmers actual value for labour, he continued”….
Another excited farmer quickly added that, “Gone are those days where our farmers will be less appreciated for the hardwork they put in to feed Cadbury, Nestlé and many other confectionery brands in the world”.
Done with Ikom as we journeyed further, I imagined the numerous benefits that the Cocoa factory in the area will provide for small and large scale farmers, when fully functional.
No doubt, Cocoa production in the state will certainly expand with many, cultivating larger cocoa farms.
Governor Ayade indeed, is a clear example of a leader that builds infrastructure with structures.
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