GHANA – The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has unveiled plans to introduce use of organic fertilizer on cocoa farms in another strategy to increase yields and cocoa production in the country.

The fertilizers will help in enriching the soil as opposed to use of chemicals and weedicides that has affected the soil fertility and yields per acre over the years, according to Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Chief Executive of COCOBOD.

Other initiatives by the cocoa industry regulator include extension of irrigation projects to nourish cocoa farms near rivers and streams and a rehabilitation programme of about 10,000 hectares of overaged cocoa farms yielding low pods per tree.

Aidoo said that the rehabilitation programme, supported by the African Development Bank would also involve mass pruning.

To diversify the cocoa industry, farmers were encouraged to embrace on-farm bee-keeping, cultivation of nutmeg alongside cocoa trees as well as intercrop their cocoa plantations with various tree species of commercial value to refurbish and protect the degrading cocoa forest.

Boosting cocoa production

As a result of combined efforts the board had said it expects to increase cocoa production to one million metric tonnes but so far, according to the CEO, 800 metric tons of the commodity have been received.

In addition to efforts being made to address challenges in the sector, COCOBOD was collaborating with the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection to include cocoa products in the School Feeding Programme to enable about 5.5 million children in public schools.

This is meant to boost cocoa production, reposition it as the leading foreign exchange earner as well as promote its nutritional benefits.

In 2016, about 1.5m hectares of cocoa farms benefited from 400,000 litres of fertilizers under the COCOBOD fertilizer and chemical programs in the season.

Despite of unstable world cocoa prices, COCOBOD has put in place measures to ensure that remunerative farm-gate prices are paid to farmers in an effort to motivate them, improve their livelihoods and sustain production.

Cocoa Producer Price has seen significant increase over the years to motivate farmers to continue to invest in cocoa and based on government of Ghana’s policy, at least 70% of the net Free on Board (FOB) is paid to farmers as producer price.