As part of its rehabilitation drive to revamp productivity levels, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has set a target of cutting down about 37,850 hectares (94,625 acres) of cocoa farms across the country this year.
The targetted farms are those infected with the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD) as well as aged and moribund trees. The COCOBOD will replant the affected farms with improved seedlings for the owners; the farmers will among others be compensated with GH¢1,000 for each hectare destroyed.
Mr. Emmanuel Fosu Nkueh, Berekum Cocoa District Extension Coordinator who disclosed this, said the impending nationwide exercise is the roll-over of piloted ones in the Western-North and Eastern Regions from the previous farming season. The CSSVD is increasingly become rife across cocoa farms in the country. According to COCOBOD, about 70% of cocoa trees in the Western-North leading production area have been attacked by the disease.
At the official signing ceremony of the US$1.3billion 2019/2020 syndicated loan facility in Paris, France, Joseph Boahen Aidoo – CEO of COCOBOD, stated that the Board had slashed the 950,000 metric tonnes target by 16%, pegging it at 850,000mt. The COCOBOD CEO attributed the target reduction to impact of the CSSVD, hence the replanting exercise.
It will be recalled that Parliament in November 2019 approved a US$600million long-term loan facility from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to finance cocoa intervention programmes. The facility, among others, is expected finance COCOBOD’s productivity enhancement programmes such as hand pollination, irrigation of cocoa farms, rehabilitation of CSSDV-infested and moribund cocoa farms.
The Berekum District Extension Coordinator urged farmers to embrace the cutting down of unproductive cocoa trees and support COCOBOD to make the rehabilitation a success and improve productivity. He was speaking at the launch of Odumaseman Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative at Odumase in the Sunyani West Municipality of the Bono Region.
The Odumaseman Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative is made up of over 200 farmers from ten farming communities in that enclave. It is the first among 30 Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperatives in the Berekum District to be inaugurated.
Mr. Nkueh advised the farmers to desist from unhealthy farming practices, such as the use of weedicides and unapproved chemicals, and adhere to extension advice. He also entreated them to invest in farm expansion to consolidate their gains in future.
The Chairman of Odumaseman Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative, Benson Amoah, in an interview with B&FT mentioned bush-fires as the major threat to cocoa production in the area. He said the menace has over the years been ravaging hectares of farms, thus discouraging many people from venturing into cocoa farming. He appealed to the Sunyani West Municipal Assembly and Ghana National Fire Service to help tame the situation.
On his part, Andrew Addoquaye Tagoe, Deputy General Secretary of the General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU), said it is long overdue for cocoa farmers to form associations to champion a common course aimed at improving the general wellbeing of farmers. “Farmers must use their Cooperatives to advocate the very pressing issues such as pricing. They should be able to make themselves relevant in pricing of the commodity – both at the international and local levels.
He said GAWU is working in collaboration with COCOBOD to gradually mobilise farmers to have a representation ‘somewhere’, so that farmers will have a global influence in the fixing of cocoa prices.
Emmanuel Fosu Nkueh (right), Berekum Cocoa Extension Coordinator, exchanges pleasantries with Benson Amoah, Chairman of Odumaseman Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative
A section of the farmers