Analysts say development could pose challenge for government
By Nsikan Ikpe
There is concern that Ghana may miss its cocoa production target for the 2017/2018 crop season if the weather pattern forecast by the Ghana Meteorological Service is anything to go by.
The service has predicted severe weather pattern that may cause downpour leading to flooding in the coastal zones but minimal levels in the middle belt.
Already, the number one cocoa producer in the world and neighbor, Ivory Coast, predicted that its dry season may run from mid-November 2016 to March 17, a situation that may affect its cocoa production output.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto earlier assured that government has begun strategizing to restore the cocoa sector into a high yielding venture and is confident it will exceed the one million metric tonnes target for the next crop season.
But the General Secretary of the General Agriculture Workers Union (GAWU), Edward Kareweh says he fears several factors such as unfavorable climate conditions among others will hinder the achievement of the expected cocoa production target.
“More rains could be good for the cocoa crop but then it will also depend on the level. Beyond a certain level, it may affect it but if it’s just a mere increase of the volume of water, and the period of the down pour, then that could also work to support the cocoa tree to do well.” he stated.
He continued that, “But if you look at cocoa production, it’s not only about the rains or availability of water. There are a number of factors that will contribute to the low production of the crop. So we could probably have huge losses based on the rains and other key factors that hinder the smooth production of the crop.”
Analysts say this development could have an unsavoury effect on the running of government, even as there continues to be a raging controversy over the disproportionate allocation of government finances to personnel and recurrent costs.
Undoubtedly, the agricultural sector is a major contributor to Ghana’s economy, contributing about 45 percent to the country’s Gross Domestic Products [GDP], with cocoa alone producing almost 25 percent of this total amount.
According to a Technical Extension Officer of the Cocoa Health Extension Division [CHED], Mr. Frank Antwi Amamoo, more than 70 percent of the cocoa produced in Ghana is exported to Europe and America, with the remaining 25 percent processed in the country into other bi-products such as chocolate, liquor, soap, body cream and other confectionaries like milo and other products.
But according to him, these bi-products are predominantly consumed by urban settlers, with majority of the cocoa growers themselves having little or no knowledge about what cocoa is used for.
Amamoo also affirmed that the surprising thing is that over 95 percent of cocoa farmers in the country have lived in the typical rural hinterlands all their life, and have never tasted any of these bi-products produced from cocoa.
He revealed that in 20i4|2015 seasonal year, the total amount of cocoa produced in the world was 3,327,000 tons, with Ghana producing 740,000 tons of the total quantity.
Again he said, only 95,000 tons was processed in the country into bi-products.
He hinted that despite their enormous contribution to the country’s economy, cocoa farmers have always remain poor, and attributed this to neglect of the application of best agricultural and scientific farming practices by these farmers taught them by Extension Officers.
He further hinted that the seed of the newly introduced hybrid cocoa cannot produce pods when plugged from the tree direct and nursed for replanting, and as such there have been constant education to the farmers by the extension officers to go to the approved source to purchase the right kind of pods which are scientifically cross pollinated to yield more and quality seed, but said most cocoa farmers have continuously refused to adhere to this advice and still stick by the old practice of plugging pods from the tree and planting them, leading to poor yield at the end of the season, thereby contributing to high level of poverty among most of the farmers.
He therefore assured that if cocoa farmers adhere to the advice of best practices, every acre of cocoa farm which is equivalent to two and half hectors of land would produce at least 20 bags of cocoa at the end of the season.
He said Ghana can regain its top spot as the world’s leading producer of cocoa if the government give cocoa farmers in the country subsidies to boost their yield.