Ghana: The coming cocoa production slump  

By Jonas Nyabor, in Accra

Posted on Friday, 27 May 2022 13:06
Ghanaian cocoa farmer, Aziz Kwadio, 34, walks inside a cocoa plantation in the village of Essam, in the western region in Ghana June 20, 2019. Picture taken June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Ange Aboa

Ghana produced a record 1.4m tonnes of cocoa beans in the 2020/21 season. This year has been much tougher. “Last season we ended the year with our highest production, but this year, seeing galamsey [illegal mining] taking a lot of our cocoa lands and the extensive harmattan, our production will be affected,” says Fiifi Boafo, public affairs manager of Ghana’s state-run Cocobod, which manages the sector.

Between 2019 and 2020, around 19,000-20,000ha of cocoa farms across the country were destroyed by illegal miners, according to a recent Cocobod report. Gold miners targeted major cocoa-growing towns in Ashanti, Eastern, Western and Western North regions.

Miners encroached on farmers’ land or bought land from cocoa growers. This longstanding friction over land is exacerbating the problems of an already volatile cocoa market. The chair of the board of the minerals commission, Barbara Oteng Gyasi, said the commission is collaborating with Cocobod to search for a lasting solution to the problem.

Cocobod’s Boafo is optimistic that the collaboration will yield positive results but says it will be a herculean task. “Engagement with the various stakeholders is key to stemming the destruction,” he tells The Africa Report.

Cote d’Ivoire, which together with Ghana is responsible for more than 60% of the world’s cocoa production, is also experiencing challenges meeting its production targets due to bad weather.

According to the International Cocoa Organisation’s April cocoa-market report: ‘The 2021/2022 cocoa season is heading towards a world deficit of approximately 181,000tn, mainly due to a shortfall in the Ghanaian production. Less conducive meteorological conditions and the outbreak of swollen-shoot disease are the major contributing factors to the production decline. It is anticipated that the 2021/22 production will be nearly one-third less than the 2020/2021 harvest.’

Replacing diseased stock

Boafo says Cocobod is removing trees affected by the swollen-shoot disease from farms and replacing them. “Cocobod is rehabilitating these farms for the farmers at no cost to them. Apart from clearing the old trees, we are planting plantain suckers to maintain the farms for the planting of fresh trees,” he says.

Other mitigation measures taken by Cocobod include intensifying its farm spraying programme, distributing subsidised fertiliser to farmers and making sure they receive adequate compensation.

Although Ghana has stocked enough cocoa fertiliser for the season, it will struggle to meet the demand for next season should the Russia-Ukraine war persist. Cocobod is making alternative arrangements to ensure that production is not significantly impacted. “We’re asking farmers to consider using poultry manure, which has been proven [to be effective] scientifically,” Boafo says.

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