Osun com­mu­nity’s choco­late story is bit­ter, yet sweet

Weekly Trust - - News - Hameed Oyeg­bade, Osogbo

Res­i­dents of Eti-Oni, in Ataku­mosa East LGA of Osun State are pre­dom­i­nantly co­coa farm­ers, and since 1896 they have be­come spe­cial­ists. Their tra­di­tional ruler, Oba Dokun Thomp­son proudly boasted that co­coa cul­ti­va­tion in Nige­ria started from his com­mu­nity be­fore it spread to other towns in the South West. But he told Daily Trust that he is not too happy that the gains are yet to man­i­fest in the com­mu­nity, in terms of de­vel­op­ment and pro­vi­sion of so­cial ameni­ties, par­tic­u­larly ac­cess roads.

When Daily Trust vis­ited the com­mu­nity, about three hours from state cap­i­tal Osogbo, it was a bleak nar­ra­tive. The road lead­ing into the com­mu­nity from Iperindo, cut-off from the Ilesa-Akure ex­press­way does not be­fit the birth­place of co­coa cul­ti­va­tion in Nige­ria, and home to the coun­try’s first co­coa plan­ta­tion. As part of ini­tia­tives to el­e­vate Eti-Oni, Oba Thomp­son de­vised var­i­ous strate­gies aimed at at­tract­ing de­vel­op­ment. One, is pro­duc­tion of Eti-Oni brand of choco­late.

Oba Thomp­son said the idea came about as a re­sult of a call for a re­nais­sance in the Nige­rian co­coa in­dus­try, to move along the value chain of pro­duc­tion, and to also achieve sus­tain­abil­ity. “Also, our over­all ob­jec­tive of build­ing and trans­form­ing EtiOni into a sus­tain­able model smart town,” he told Daily Trust. “The launch of EtiOni Choco­late was part of the high­lights of the 2016 Co­coa Fes­ti­val which saw the cel­e­bra­tion of 120 years of con­tin­ued pro­duc­tion of co­coa in Eti-Oni, the old­est co­coa plan­ta­tion in Nige­ria,” he added.

The tra­di­tional ruler said Eti-Oni brand at the mo­ment is pro­duced for the Euro­pean mar­ket, be­cause Nige­ri­ans are not eat­ing choco­late. “We’ve done a few trial runs and it has been suc­cess­ful in the Euro­pean mar­ket. Even though we have been pro­duc­ing co­coa in Nige­ria for over 120years, it is not yet em­braced as part of our cul­ture and choco­late is ob­vi­ously not a prod­uct we fully un­der­stand. We are cur­rently pro­duc­ing the Eti-Oni choco­late in Lin­colnshire UK in part­ner­ship with Duffy’s Choco­late, a multi award-win­ning ar­ti­san pre­mium choco­latier. Our choco­late should be avail­able in June this year in the UK, and Euro­pean mar­kets be­cause that is where you have a ready mar­ket and they un­der­stand choco­late and have cre­ated a cul­ture out of it.”

The monarch said he was work­ing on sev­eral strate­gies and projects that will even­tu­ally give Nige­rian co­coa the def­i­ni­tion it re­quires, and place it where it should be amongst co­coa-pro­duc­ing coun­tries, and that once that is achieved, the farm­ers will de­velop self-dig­nity and that there would be in­crease in per capita in­come and pro­vi­sion of ba­sic so­cial ameni­ties for the peo­ple.

Also, as part of the ef­forts to en­cour­age lo­cal choco­latiers in the coun­try and push de­mand for co­coa, Oba Thomp­son said “We have 3 or 4 lo­cal ones blaz­ing the trail, and we are also pro­mot­ing one of them, Kal­abari Gecko Choco­late, in ad­di­tion with our Eti-Oni Choco­late to give the nec­es­sary ex­po­sure and cre­ate brands that are glob­ally ac­cepted.”

The Oba ex­plained that the Eti-Oni choco­late will be able to com­pete with other pop­u­lar brands around the world. “For those who un­der­stand ar­ti­san pre­mium choco­late, we stand tall and be­side well-known and glob­ally-ac­cepted pre­mium brands. What most Nige­ri­ans don’t un­der­stand is the dif­fer­ence be­tween the healthy pre­mium choco­late which has a lot of vary­ing in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ter and value to it. The taste, notes, tex­ture and so on de­pend­ing on the re­gion the co­coa was pro­duced and very high con­tent of pure co­coa. They are confused with the un­healthy choco­late can­dies which are full of sugar and sev­eral ad­di­tives and al­ter­na­tives with the min­i­mum pos­si­ble co­coa that can be eas­ily found on su­per­mar­ket shelves.”

With plans to in­tro­duce spices into their choco­late be­fore the end of 2018, Oba Thomp­son also said at the mo­ment, they are pro­duc­ing only dark choco­late, which is 70% co­coa. “We’ll even­tu­ally be do­ing some milk choco­late, but we will not be do­ing any with less than 45% co­coa be­cause of the health ben­e­fits, which we re­quire of our prod­ucts. Our choco­late has a mix of flo­ral, fruity notes, with a smooth fin­ish and a de­light when eaten,” he said. What a sweet thought, in­deed.

Oba Dokun Thomp­son at the pre­sen­ta­tion of Etio-Oni Choco­late in Osun State. In­set, the choco­late bars.

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