Editorial : Lifeline for cocoa farmers

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Cocoa farmers

The President, while on a three-day tour of the Western North Region, announced the award of a new cocoa producer price of GH¢10,560 per metric ton, equivalent to GH¢660 per bag for the coming 2020/21 crop year.

The increase in the producer price saw cocoa farmers present at the ceremony jubilating since the unstable nature of cocoa prices on the world cocoa market has been the bane of the industry.

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are responsible for 65% of the raw cocoa beans used in making chocolates, yet cocoa farmers from the two countries earn just US$6 billion from an over US$100 billion chocolate industry.

The new price is an increment from GH₵514 during the last season. The President spoke last week at the launch of the National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme aimed at assisting cocoa farmers replant moribund and cocoa swollen shoot virus disease with hybrid cocoa varieties.

Additionally, 23 percent of the total cocoa tree stock is over-aged, some over 30 years of age. The Western Region once contributed around 330,000 tonnes of cocoa (2010) but owing to the outbreak of the swollen shoot disease, the area is not able to match that feat and is producing far less.

The President announced that Government is keen on replanting all swollen-shoot affected farms in all the regions of cocoa cultivation since this will help improve the yield per hectare for all cocoa farmers.

Out of the total national cultivated cocoa area of 1.95 million hectares, about 17% of the cocoa tree stock is affected by the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD), and 23% was over-aged. Two-thirds of the blighted cocoa area in Ghana, representing some 214,000 hectares, was found in the Western North Region alone.

Of the US$600 million syndicated loan facility secured by COCOBOD, more than two-thirds of the amount will go directly into rejuvenation of diseased and overaged farms and productivity enhancement activities, including pruning and hand pollination and irrigation of cocoa farms.

This is a good investment in trying to revive an ailing cocoa sector that is so crucial to the health of our economy. Cocoa farmers have long suffered underpricing of their labour efforts and the investment made in cropping, and thus comes as a major boost to their activities that the producer price has been increased.

However, we believe if the country focuses more on processing the raw cocoa beans instead of selling raw beans, the farmers would be better rewarded.

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