Ms Abisola Olusanya, the Special Adviser to Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos on Agriculture has decried the low production of coconuts in Badagry, Lagos.
Olusanya spoke at the Celebration of 2019 Coconut Festival tagged “Agunfest” held at Suntan Beach, Badagry on Saturday.
The Nigeria News Agency reports that the theme of the festival is: “Coconut Production and Utilisation; Dealing with Current Imperatives in view of Border closure’’.
According to her, just recently, the Federal Government ordered the closure of the entire country’s borders as one of the ways of patronising local produce goods and services to save foreign earnings.
“One of the consequences of enforcement of border closure is the overzealousness of some security operatives who have been allegedly reported to be harassing local producers and marketers of coconuts.
“The seizure of coconuts, harassment of local producers and marketers within this area is having adverse effects on local production of coconuts.
“There is need for a comprehensive and robust stakeholders’ engagement along coconut value chain so as to ensure that the good policy of the Federal Government on border closure will not impact negatively on coconut economy.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Lagos State Coconut Development Authority (LASCODA) are working closely with other stakeholders toward proffering lasting solutions to the lingering crisis currently affecting the downstream sector of Coconut Value Chain,” she said.
Adesanya said that the government had been involved in rehabilitation of the coconut belt; massive production of improved seedlings; capacity building and empowerment of the value chain; and encouragement of proliferation of coconut cottage.
“We are doing these and more in a bid to encourage private investors to come and invest in the state,’’ she added.
She said that the administration of Gov. Sanwo-Olu had reiterated its commitment to support coconut farmers, processors, marketers, haulage operators, producers on food security, job and wealth creation with active involvement of private sector.
Mr Solomon Bonu, the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Tourism, Arts and Culture, said that the state government had set up a committee to look into continuous seizure of coconuts in Badagry.
Bonu noted that the governor had written letters to President Muhammadu Buhari and the National Assembly (NASS) on the matter.
According to him, coconut cannot be separated from Badagry because Badagry is coconut and coconut is Badagry.
Mr Dapo Olakulehin, the General Manager, Lagos State Coconut Development Authority (LASCODA) said the usefulness of coconut could not be over-emphasised.
According to him, it is perhaps the most useful tree in the world because of the wide range of products.
“It grows naturally along the coastal terrain and cultivated in about 92 countries of the world including India, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri-lanka, Nigeria, among other countries.
“Seventy per cent of the total production from Nigeria is produced in Lagos State and ranks Nigeria 17th in the World Coconut producing countries.
“The state is naturally blessed with vast coconut belt embedded with abundance of coconut resources and it has advantages over other crops in the country.
“It has about two million trees with annual production of 200 million husked nuts. Also about 20,000 farming families derive their livelihood from it and the number increases daily,” he said.
In his welcome address, Mr Doheto Mesi, the President, African Coconut Heritage Initiatives (ACHI) said the awareness for coconut utilisation and commercialisation was definitely on the increase across Nigeria.
“The current deficit in production is worrisome and poses a situation of severity in nearest future if the production capacity of coconut is not increased.
“The low production capacity of coconut in Nigeria led to massive and uncontrollable importation from neighbouring African countries like Ghana, Benin Republic and Togo.
“The current severe scarcity of coconut in Badagry presently necessitated by the current border closure also pointed to the fact about low production capacity of Nigeria,” he said.
Mesi urged government agencies, NGOs, Coconut Associations, private investors, schools and communities to come together to take steps to reverse the current trend to meet up the growing demand.
Edited by: Edwin Nwachukwu/Adeleye Ajayi