GHANA – Ghana has lost over 500,000 hectares of cocoa farms to Cocoa Swollen Shoot Viral Disease (CSSVD) according to the Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, posing a major threat to the country’s cocoa production. 

CSSVD is one of the most devastating diseases on cacao and causes significant production losses and death of cacao trees. CSSVD is caused by a badnavirus within the family Caulimoviridae. 

Symptoms of infected cacao plants include red vein-banding in young leaves which may be followed by vein clearing or chlorosis along the veins. 

While recognising the gravity of the situation, Aidoo offered some assurances, indicating that measures have been put in place and continue to be implemented to address the issue. 

In addition, Aidoo emphasized the compounding challenges in the coffee sector stating, “Illegal mining and climate change are exacerbating the decline in cocoa productivity, posing a significant risk to the livelihoods of cocoa farmers.” 

Furthermore, he highlighted the vulnerability of cocoa trees to climate change, noting, “Rising temperatures, unpredictable rainfall, and prolonged droughts are impeding tree growth and reducing cocoa output.” 

In response to the CSSVD challenge, COCOBOD initiated the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme in 2018.  

Aidoo explained the program’s approach, stating, “The rehabilitation involves identifying diseased farms, cutting down affected trees, replanting disease-resistant cocoa varieties, compensating affected farmers, and promoting good agricultural practices.” 

The also underscored the significance of the living Income Differential (LID) and recent hikes in Ghana’s producer price for cocoa farmers considering them crucial advancements. 

Aidoo emphasized the need for collective commitment across the industry to prioritize sustainable incomes backed by concrete actions to ensure its realization. 

Surge in Cocoa Prices 

Meanwhile, cocoa prices have surged to an all-time high, US$5,874 per metric ton, as bad weather affects cocoa-producing countries in West Africa. 

Humza Hussain, a commodities analyst at TD Asset Management, said, “The changing weather patterns mean that the potential yields of cocoa are now permanently impaired,” 

Companies are also feeling the heat with companies like Hershey predicting stagnated growth in earnings for the year.  

Hershey CEO Michele Buck said that the chocolate maker’s earnings growth will be flat this year due to historically high cocoa prices. Hershey reported fourth-quarter net income of $349 million, a nearly 12% decrease compared to the year-ago period. 

“As we look at those record cocoa prices, certainly it’s a dynamic market and those are a challenge, but we have lived through market volatility and fluctuation in input costs before,” said Buck. 

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