Dwindling cocoa production requires urgent attention

Our regional correspondents from the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions toured some cocoa-growing areas in their respective regions…and have a sad tale to tell. Ordinarily, they were told, an acre of cocoa should yield an average farmer between 13-15 bags of cocoa beans (64kg), but now farmers are recording low yields of between five to ten bags.

This probably explains the reason behind dwindling purchases of the cash crop. From historic production levels that saw the country amass 903,646 metric tonnes only but a few years ago (2010), the 2016/17 season saw the country produce only around 840 million tonnes.

Unstable rainfall patterns and excessive logging have been blamed for the declining production levels. Additionally, insufficient supply of inputs like fertiliser and disease-control agro-chemicals have added to the plight, and farmers are now looking forward to the yet-to-be implemented cocoa irrigation project as an antidote to the low yields.

COCOBOD is contemplating irrigating about 400,000 hectares of cocoa farms across cocoa-producing areas of the country, but the high cost of agro-chemicals is stifling the ability of cocoa farmers to cope with its application.

The fluctuating price of cocoa on the international market, which has fallen by approximately 20 percent, adds to the woes of farmers. It is for this reason that the recently appended ‘Abidjan Declaration’ – which is a strategic partnership agreement between two of the world’s largest producers, Ivory Coast and Ghana – is a welcome development.

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Between the two producers they account for around 60 percent of global production, and the bilateral agreement seeks to better-defend the interests of cocoa producers. With such collaboration, both countries may be in a better position to influence the commodity’s price through the harmonisation of marketing strategies.

Ever since the colonial era, cocoa has been the mainstay of the Ghanaian economy and continues to be an important foreign exchange earner for the nation. It is for this reason that dwindling production figures are a worrying prospect for the country.

We cannot sit idly by while the cocoa industry’s fortunes slide due to factors like climate change and expensive agro-inputs that are beyond the reach of average cocoa farmers. Some form of intervention is needed to salvage the situation.

A positive commitment from the Abidjan Declaration is the commitment to process a major part of the cocoa locally, which will assure the producers of better prices.

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