BY EMEKA EJERE
Governor Ben Ayade, of Cross River State has signed a full Venture/Public Private Partnership (PPP) agreement of 15 million dollars with Israeli Bean & Co. Global Ltd, towards the establishment of a special cocoa city project in the state.
According to News Agency of Nigeria, the signing was done virtually on Wednesday.
The Memorandum of Understanding guiding the project execution had been signed earlier on February 14, 2020.
The state government had as its representatives, the Cross River Commissioner for Agriculture, Mr. Okon Owuna and the Director-General of Cocoa Regeneration Agency, Mr. Collins Ogar, and the state Commissioner for Justice, Mr. Tanko Ashang, witnessed the agreement signing.
Managing Partner, LR Group, and Bean & Co, Mr. Doron Rette, signed on behalf of the Israeli Bean& Co. Global Ltd.
The PPP agreement spells out a funding system where the Cross River state government would cover 35% of the project cost, while Israeli Bean & Co would cover the remaining 65%.
There is also a funding proposal in the agreement, which provides credit facilities to help the farmers boost production.
Explaining the arrangement, Okon Owuna said; “under the funding proposal, the farmers will receive about N2.4million loan for four years to cover seedlings, pesticides, fertilizers, training, growing protocols and other necessary inputs”.
Due to the long gestation period of cocoa, they will not be required to commence repayment of the loan until the fifth year at which time they would have commenced harvest.
The arrangement, according to Mr. Roy Yami, President of LR Group, presents a good investment opportunity for cocoa farmers in the state.
According to the Agriculture Commissioner, Owuna, the agreement details provisions for the two components of the project.
The first component is the Agro Industrial Centre with a processing plant, seedlings nursery, and training facility as well as pulp powder and dry cocoa beans for export.
The second component is the Farmers Outgrowers Scheme, which he said would cover 5,000 to 10,000 hectares of land.
The project, upon completion, is targeted at involving thousands of farmers who will operate under the technical protocol of Bean & Co who will buy all their products consisting of the pods and wet cocoa beans.
“This project will increase cocoa farmers’ earnings three times over and increase productivity six times over.
“The project will engage thousands of farmers and employ Cross-riverians in the cocoa city plus technology transfer” Owuna explained.
He revealed that the Farmers Outgrowers Scheme will stretch cover cocoa producing local government areas in the state including Etung, Ikom, Boki, Obubra, Obudu, and Akamkpa.