By Sodiq Lawal
Despite the soaring price of cocoa price in the global market, produce buyers and merchants in Ife land are expressing fears over the government vacation notice of Shasha forest where the larger chunk of the product are coming from.
A ton of cocoa now sells for N25,000 in Ile Ife and Modakeke, as against N15, 000 sold last year while a pod of cocoa now sells for N70 against N20 sold last year.
A Modakeke Cocoa Farmer, Alhaji Salam Odetayo told Ife City news that the price increase as a result of increase in the foreign exchange and depreciating values of Naira.
He explained that the Illegal entry of the Shasha Forest In Ile Ife which necessitated the state government 21-day ultimatum to the occupants to vacate the 30 square-miles forest has affected many villages as may farmers were forced out of their farm land.
The affected villages in Shasha forest reserve include Abaole, Adeeti, Abeji, Idi Ogun, Odesanmi, Elewa Lasisi and Apoje. Other villages include Abule Onida, Olomidudu, Alaagan and Aba Amodu.
Chairman Of Olayiwola Julius Cocoa Production in Ile Ife, Mr Oladimeji Oluwaseun in an interview with said “the indigenes always faced scarcity of land for farming after those who went to Ikale in Ondo State in search of land were attacked and others killed while they were trying to harvest their cocoa and ran back to Ife”
“They approached the monarch who went to the government to acquire the land for them at the Shasha forest reserve which they are now asking them to vacate after planting their Cocoa which are now due for harvest, they have to comply because they cannot fight government, they can only protest which government has ignored”.
“We are only appealing to Governor Rauf Aregbesola to tamper justice with mercy and withdraw the quit notice and allow us to continue with our occupation because that is the only means of our livelihood”
“Our Kabiyesi, the late Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, was the one who acquired the land from the Osun State Government for Ife indigenes when he was alive. He acquired it from the former military administrator of Osun State, Col. Anthony Obi in 1997.”
He disclosed further that the late monarch set up a committee to allocate 10 acres of land each to the farmers numbering about 10,000 free of charge. They, however, paid N2,000 each to collect form which was used for the survey of the portion.
“We got the first harvest from the forest in 2002 and started taking them to the market immediately,”
He stressed that cocoa production was crucial to the agricultural economy as well as food production and security of the nation.
“There is no doubt that Ife-Tuntun Farms remain one of the nerve centres of cocoa farming in the South West, making Osun to be ranked as the third in the South West after Ondo and Oyo. Sending us parking from the farms will amount to pulling the state off the ranking.
“It will also reduce the capacity of Cocoa, Production, which will also go a long way in affecting the country’s exchange rate profile”
“Apart from that, it will amount to taking our means of livelihood from me and our family. Then poverty, and hunger. The situation may go out of hands if government closes down the farms. That is why we are begging government to allow us to continue with our occupation which is our only means of livelihood .” Oluwaseun said.