By Christiana Ekpa
A Bill for the establishment of National Tea and Coffee Development Council on Thursday scaled second reading on the floor of the Senate.
This followed the presentation of the lead debate on the Bill sponsored by Sen. Yusuf Yusuf (APC-Taraba).
Yusuf said the Bill was read for the first time on Tuesday, April 25 and seeks to develop tea and coffee growth, production and marketing in Nigeria.
According to him, the Bill if passed will enhance a rapid economy diversification of the agricultural sector, enhance revenue to government and its related impact on the improvement of the life of Nigerians.
“There is no doubt that the passage of this Bill will improve the performance and the growth of the nation’s economy, reduce the over dependence on oil export earnings so as to further exploit the country’s vast agricultural potentials”
He noted that states like Taraba, Plateau and Cross River were favourably endowed with suitable climate for commercial cultivation of tea
The lawmaker, however, regretted that governments had not made any major impact in terms of active involvement and participation in tea and coffee growth and production.
He urged government to put in place a legal framework that would be aimed at developing and encouraging the processing and marketing tea across the country
Contributing, Sen. Emmanuel Bwacha (PDP-Taraba) said the importance of the Bill could not be over-emphasised.
He noted that the capacity of Taraba, for instance, in tea production had not been given much attention.
“As a matter of fact, Taraba occupies a global space in production of tea better than that of Kenya; it is just that the potential has not been sufficiently harnessed,” he said.
He said that was why the Federal Government owed it a duty to the follow up of the diversification programme to take seriously the production of tea.
“The Mambilla Plateau in Taraba, outside the power potential which is known nationally has the capacity to produce tea that could supply world need.
“When Taraba was part of Adamawa, a lot was done to bring world attention to the production of tea but as the state was created out of Adamawa, not much has been heard,” Bwacha said.
He further said the Bill if passed into law would do a great deal in bringing production of tea to large global attention.
Bwacha called on his colleagues to expedite the passage of the Bill to give Nigeria a better space in the comity of nations that produce tea.
Similarly, Sen. Sabi Abdullahi (APC-Niger) said the Bill was one of the attempts of the Senate to contribute to the diversification programme of the Federal Government.
“The Nigerian market is inundated with all sorts of beverages derived from tea and coffee. If you look at the amount involved by way of pressure on the foreign exchange of this country and given the potential of agro ecologists in this country, I think to have this kind of Bill at this time is a step in the right direction.
“Nigeria’s potential is just lying waste. Having a council is something that is welcomed and should be supported,” Abdullahi said.
The President of the Senate Dr Bukola Saraki thereafter referred the Bill to the Committee on Agriculture and Rural development to report back to the Senate in four weeks.