Cocoa farmers in the Assin South District of the Central Region have heaped praises on government for instituting prudent measures to sustain the sector in the wake of the Coronavirus (COVIB-19).
According to them, introduction of the mass cocoa spraying and pruning, hand pollination and right application of fertilizers to the tree crop among other things, had helped farmers to harvest not less than 20 bags of cocoa per acre this year, as against the three bags they were harvesting over the years.
They said the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic dipped growth in many sectors, yet the cocoa sector which employed nearly one million farmers remained strong.
Speaking on behalf of the farmers, Mr Yaw Akuffo, Best farmer of Assin-Homaho Electoral Area, told the GNA that the Ghana Cocoa Board’s (COCOBOD) US$200 million loan facility from a consortium of banks for the take-off of the Productivity Enhancement Programme (PEPs), introduction of the mass cocoa spraying and pruning, hand pollination and right application of fertilizers to the tree crop among other things, was necessary to boost and sustain the sector.
The facility is the first tranche of a US$600 million credit facility from the banks signed in 2017 to enhance both cultivation of cocoa beans and the processing of same in the Country.
It will among others increase cocoa production through the PEPs, improve irrigation ,and expand warehousing capacity, processing and promotion of Cocoa consumption and the creation of a reliable database required for theory distribution of inputs to farmers.
That, Mr Akuffo said was timely to strengthen the cocoa value chain, help alleviate poverty by increasing productivity and promoting a progressive cocoa consumption environment.
Touching on other interventions, he said the introduction of various agronomic interventions by the government also helped to bring tremendous increase in crop yields per acre on cocoa farms.
“The government is spending over GH¢300 million on the initiatives every season to ensure that the country achieved the one million tonnes target of cocoa production,” Mr Akuffo said.
He noted that the hand pollination exercise, for instance, was helping farmers to increase pods on trees, while the spraying and pruning were preventing insects from destroying the cocoa beans.
At Appiahkrom, Beyerden, Kwafokrom, Nkwanta and Harunakrom, scores of farmers testified to the significance of the interventions in the sector.
According to Madam Diana Amissah, she was formerly harvesting less than eight bags per acre, but now harvested 25 bags and hoped to harvest over 30 bags per acre this year.”
She commended the hand pollination intervention, which increased the pods on a single cocoa tree bears at a time, thus, per the COCOBOD’s estimation, a single tree could give a farmer almost 32 kilos of cocoa which was half of a bag.