The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is focusing on mitigating the cocoa swollen shoot disease in its research activities, Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto announced on Wednesday.
Additionally, it is also developing hybrid seedlings with relatively high resistance to the disease.
The measures are part of a pilot rehabilitation project by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to ensure production of high yielding cocoa seedlings.
The Minister announced the measures in response to an urgent question on the floor of the House, asked by Alhaji A B A Fuseini, MP for Sagnarigu, on the “measures the Ministry is putting in place to ensure the production of high yielding cocoa seedlings for the cocoa industry, having regard to the fluctuation in the levels of cocoa production over the past five years.”
Cocoa has been the mainstay of Ghana’s economy until the discovery of oil in recent times.
However, there has been a systematic decline in the country’s production in the last five years, and the Minister admitted that available data indicate that the decline started ten years ago.
Dr Akoto said the cocoa swollen shoot disease (CSSVD) is a prominent factor that has contributed to the decline in production levels.
He spoke of numerous activities being undertaken jointly by the Cocoa Health and Extension Division and the Seed Production Division of the Ghana COCOBOD to revive cocoa plantations, which include the replanting of swollen shoot treated farms and rehabilitation of overaged and moribund farms.
Burnt farms are also being replanted; new farms being established and the capacity of underutilized farms are being maximized.
From 2014 to date, a total of more than 247.66 million cocoa seedlings have been produced and distributed to farmers.
However, nationally 315,886 hectares out of a total of 1.9 million hectares of cocoa was lost to CCSVD, and production was seriously affected, especially in the Western Region, which is a major cocoa producing area.
After some interventions, between 2017 and 2019, more than 144.421 million seedlings were produced and distributed to farmers, of which a significant portion was utilised in the Western North and Eastern Regions for the pilot rehabilitation programme financed by COCOBOD.
Dr Akoto said the government subsequently secured US$600 million from the African Development Bank to scale up the pilot programme, of which US$140 million is devoted to the treatment of CSSVD.
Under the administration of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, the Minister said the Government had taken some initiatives to modernize and transform the agricultural sector, with the cocoa sector as a major priority.
Some of the initiatives are the modernization of the production of healthy cocoa seedlings for the field with the adoption of the use of galvanized poles and treated lumber for nursery structures instead of bamboo.
There is the replacement of disposable single-use polybags with more durable and environmentally ultra-violet protected receptacles as well as reducing costs by using cocopeat (soil-less) instead of topsoil; and provision of on-farm water sources through the sinking of boreholes and other irrigation facilities in water-deprived areas.
“Also, Mr Speaker, recommended agronomic practices are being followed to ensure the survival of seedlings in the field. These practices are already yielding good results with the ongoing pilot rehabilitation programme
“They will be strictly followed as we commence the National Rehabilitation Programme,” the Minister said.