By Ikechukwu Okaforadi and Christiana Ekpa
Senate yesterday passed for second reading the Bill seeking to establish a National Tea and Coffee Development Council which will boost coffee and tea production in Nigeria, as a measure to create more jobs and diversify the economy.
The Bill sponsored by Yusuf Abubakar Yusuf (APC, Taraba), said that the Bill will foster marketing of coffee and tea in Nigeria, even as it will enhance rapid economic diversification in the agricultural sector.
The financial implication of the Bill includes: N230,100,115 for salaries and allowances at takeoff, N67,744,000 for maintenance and management cost of office and other contingencies at takeoff, as well as N150,000,000 for office accommodation and furniture at takeoff.
Leading debate on the Bill, Yusuf said it will further increase revenue accruable to the government and boost the Gross Domestic Product of the affected states that will be beneficiary of cocoa production destination.
“There is no doubt that the passage of the Bill will improve the performance and growth of nation’s economy, reduce the over dependence on oil export earnings so as to further exploit the country’s vast agricultural potentials”, he said.
He explained that some part of the country are favourably endowed with suitable climate and soil condition that could be harnessed for commercial cultivation of coffee, while others like Taraba, Plateau, and Cross River has climate and soil conditions that can be harnessed for commercial cultivation of tea.
He lamented that the government has not made any major impact in terms of active involvement in tea and coffee growth, production and marketing sector of the economy. Speaking also, he lamented that the only government presence in the development of tea production was in the 70’s when the then government entered into joint ventures with some states governments and private entrepreneurs to set up a tea farm and factory in Taraba.
He said the council will be a catalyst for tea and coffee growth and development by providing technical, managerial and horticultural extension services among other benefits.
The lawmaker said the Bill will create an agency that will assist farmers to set up out growers, tea and coffee factory’s and provide some with ready training in the latest tea and coffee technology as well as supply agricultural inputs in aid of tea and coffee growth and production.
He said through this process, the farmers can become full entrepreneurs that will own tea and coffee factories in the value chain, adding that when the Bill is passed, it will confer on the authority powers to access funds from surcharges on importation of coffee and tea.