HUNDREDS of cocoa farmers belonging to various groups in Ondo State have been rewarded with N40 million premium payments for producing utz-certified cocoa beans by Cargill Cocoa and Chocolates, a Holland-based consumer company and its Nigerian partners, Agro-Traders Limited.
The payments which was presented to the farmers in Akure, the Ondo State capital at the weekend by the European company which consumes about one-third of global production and is the largest buyer of Nigerian cocoa in the international market, was for about 6,000 tones produced by the farmers.
The utz certification is a global programme of quality control subscribed to by many international consumers of agricultural products to raise the standard of farm produce with adequate rewards for complying partners in form of premium pricing above the normal global rates.
It involves provision of inputs and training of farmers in Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), good business practices, occupational health and safety, social and environmental issues as well as natural resources and bio-diversity for the producers to come out with top-grade, international standard and environmental compliant products.
The Managing Director of Agro-Traders, Kunle Ayoade, said with the participation of Ondo State farmers in the certification programme “average yield per hectare have been raised from national average of 300 kg to 450 kg in Owo/Akure cooperative unions and 750 kg in Odode Idanre cooperative unions due to our intervention.
“Certification is one of the available tools to ensure the application of principles for sustainable production of cash crop. It is particularly relevant in optimization of agriculture land resource. The payment of premium is one of the numerous benefits of this laudable programme others being increased capacity building among farmers, better yield per hectare, increased supply of good quality cocoa, improved livelihood for farmers and environmental protection for the benefit of all.”