GHANA – Ghana, the world’s second largest cocoa producer, has put in place a number of interventions and best agronomic practices to help double output of the crop within ten years.

Ghana’s cocoa industry, touted as the nation’s economic back-bone, will receive a further boost in its average annual cocoa output to over 1 million tons from the current 800,000 tons, Noah Amenyah, Snr. Public Affairs Manager of the Ghana Cocoa Board, the regulator said in an interview.

Ghana, which lost its position as world’s largest producer of cocoa to Ivory Coast its West African neighbour due to factors including diseased tree stock, has distributed over 120 million free high yielding hybrid seedlings to farmers in the last two years to re-cultivate old farms and replace aged trees.

“The execution of the interventions started with the cocoa farm rehabilitation programme which sought to eradicate diseased cocoa farms as well as old unproductive farms.

Such cocoa trees are being cut and replaced with early bearing, high yielding and disease tolerant hybrid seedlings,” Mr Amenyah said.

In the current 2016/17 crop year, COCOBOD is again nursing 60 million hybrid seedlings in over 332 nursery sites across all the cocoa regions for free distribution to cocoa farmers.

We expect to add an estimated 50,000 hectares of cocoa farms this year. Thus 500,000 hectares would have been established within the ten-year period,” Mr Amenyah stated.

It is worth noting however, that the COCOBOD’s impressive efforts aimed at increasing production and creating sustainable jobs for farmers and the youth are being undermined by the activities of some business concerns and individuals both local and foreign.

These groups sometimes work through Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) who undertake similar ventures of raising cocoa seedlings in some cocoa growing areas for distribution to farmers at a cost, this underscores the profit-making motive of such organizations and the individuals involved,” Mr Amenyah added.

“It is a great source of worry,” Amenyah said. “Farmers need not incur the cost of seedlings, we have the Cocoa Health and Extension (CHED) and Seed Production Division which produces free seedlings,” he said.

“This is the reason for which COCOBOD encourages farmers to source their early bearing and high yielding seedlings from respective Cocoa Health and Extension (CHED) and Seed Production Division nurseries sites,” he said

“We don’t only supply free seedlings to farmers but also have a holistic program which provides free fertilizers to improve soil fertility and free mass spraying exercise against pests”.

The Mass Spraying Programme has also seen massive improvement in its structure and form over the past years, he stated.

Of great concern is ageing cocoa farmers, poor road network in cocoa-growing areas and access to education.

COCOBOD has therefore introduced the Youth-in-Cocoa Initiative, Cocoa Roads Rehabilitation programme, COCOBOD Child Education Support Programme and also improved upon the cocoa farmers’ wards’ Scholarship Scheme as a way of addressing these issues while at the same time, promoting cocoa sustainability issues.

Ghana Cocoa Board’s modules and programmes have been carefully developed to reduce cost to farmers and improve livelihood of farmers,” Mr Amenyah said.

January 7, 2017; GNA