The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has begun its cocoa farm rehabilitation programme to cut down and replant diseased and over-aged cocoa farms across the country.
This farm rehabilitation programme forms part of strategic and long term measures in a bid to increase the country’s production of cocoa which currently stands around 800,000 tonnes per annum to an estimated 1.5 million tonnes in the next five years.
Rehabilitation of diseased and over-aged cocoa farms constitute a major reason Ghana recently secured a US$600 million loan from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to revamp the cocoa sub-sector.
According to the Deputy Chief Executive in charge of Operations at COCOBOD, Dr. Emmanuel Opoku, about US$230 million of the package will be used to rehabilitate the farms.
“So far, out of our own resources, we have done close to 8,000 hectares and under the project, we estimate that by the end of the 5th year, we would have rehabilitated close to 160,000 hectares of diseased and over-aged cocoa farms”, Mr. Opoku noted.
Currently, it is estimated that Ghana has more than 2.5 million hectares of cocoa areas of which about 1.45 million hectares are considered to be productive areas.
There are a number of diseases that affect the cocoa pod, but the most common disease in West Africa – where about three-quarters of the world’s cocoa is produced – is the Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV).
According to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) – the research arm of COCOBOD – about 16 percent of the country’s cocoa crops are infected with diseases.
As a result of this in 2019, Ghana cut its crop forecast by 11 percent because of the CSSV as the country’s output was severely affected by swollen shoot disease.
Because there is no immediate cure for it, farmers manage the virus by cutting down infested trees, burning and replacing trees that show symptoms.
Meanwhile, in a move to increase the yield of cocoa farms, COCOBOD last week began a nationwide pruning exercise which is expected to end in April this year.
The process which involves thinning of branches and removal of old and dead stems is seen as imperative as it is estimated that after the programme is complete, cocoa farmers will experience between 15 percent to 20 percent increase in the production of cocoa beans.
Already, the Board has imported about 100,000 pieces of equipment and materials that will be needed to undertake the exercise which includes secateurs, pruners, loppers among others.