COCOBOD has targeted raising the country’s cocoa production to about one million tonnes in the next three years following the introduction of the cocoa farm rehabilitation programme to reverse the devastation caused by the cocoa swollen shoot disease.
Currently, about 40 percent — 400,000 hectares — of the country’s cocoa farms in major growing areas have been affected by the CSSVD and rendered unproductive, thereby impeding government’s efforts to achieve annual projected production targets.
The government, through the cocoa rehabilitation programme, which was launched by President Nana Akufo-Addo about a fortnight ago, is to ensure that all unhealthy cocoa trees are cut down and replanted.
John Ahi, District Technical Officer, COCOBOD, Buoko District of the Sefwi Wiawso Municipal Assembly, told Business24 that about 30,000 hectares of cocoa tress will be cut down in the Western North Region of which 10,000 hectares have been done already.
He said about 11 million cocoa seedlings have been replanted so far and they are expected to start harvesting between 3 to 5 years.
“Many of the cocoa farms are unproductive and have started experiencing reduction of yields due to the disease so it is very important that as a region and a country we take drastic action to stop the trend,” he said.
Regional Manager, Cocoa Health and Extension Division of the Western South Cocoa Region, Samuel Asare Ankamah, said as part of COCOBOD’s national rehabilitation programme, the regulator will manage the farms for a period of two years before they will be handed over to the farmers.
This, he said, is to ensure that proper farming practices are constantly complied with and the necessary chemicals are used to ensure the cocoa farms are in a healthy state.
“When you look at the production now, you can see that while Cote d’Ivoire is doing over two million metric tonnes, we are doing less than 700,000. This is due to the fact that most of our cocoa farms are have been affected by various diseases and as a result are unproductive,” he said.
Ghana and Ivory Coast contribute about 60 percent of the world’s cocoa production in the over US$100 billion chocolate industry.
The government has allocated over US$200 million of the US$600 million syndicated loan facility it secured from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to the national rehabilitation programme.
Last year, government projected about 900,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans but was able to achieve a little over 700,000 metric tonnes.
About two-thirds of the blighted cocoa area in Ghana, representing some 214,000 hectares were found in the Western North Region alone. The region, which once produced over 330,000 metric tonnes in 2010/2011, is now producing below 150,000 metric tonnes.
The Solidaridad intervention
International civil society organisation, Solidaridad, has set up the Rural Service Centres (RSCs) at hard-to reach cocoa growing areas and have been given some training to set up model farms in the treatment and re-establishment of CSSVD infected farms in selected cocoa growing communities.
The RSCs have become viable partners to Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) in the treatment of CSSVD and the re-establishment of affected farms post treatment.
Some of the managers of the RSCs who spoke to the Business24 said they have several farms under their care where they ensure the right application of fertilizers to farms.
They also give credit to farmers to purchase farm tools and repay when they harvest their produce.
Cocoa Health and Extension Division have consequently selected RSCs as service providers under the government’s cocoa farm rehabilitation initiative.
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