Business News of Wednesday, 16 May 2018
Ghana’s quest to increase its cocoa production to a consistent 1 million tonnes per year has been hindered by soil fertility, the African Regional Director, PROFOREST, Abraham Baffoe has revealed.
He explains that the low cocoa productivity is as a result of the loss in forest cover.
He noted that the continuous practice of deforestation in cocoa growing areas is negatively affecting the fertility of the soil, hence the challenge in producing cocoa on large scale.
Citing Western Region as one of the hardest hit areas of this problem, Abraham Baffoe expressed worry that many cocoa farmers may have been misled by research that suggested exposing cocoa farms to the sun will lead to greater yield.
He said, “The fact is that the loss of forest cover has led to low productivity of cocoa, that’s a fact that is what we know. If you go to the Western Region now, cocoa farms are similar to palm nut plantations, there are no trees. And the reason is that around 2000, 2001 there was this discussion about shade and sun cocoa.”
“There was the understanding that sun cocoa yields higher than shade cocoa and in my point of view, the farmers were misled by research because we all know that if you cut vegetation and you burn, the soil is rich at the beginning and that is exactly what happens because there are no vegetation cover for litter to drop and improve the soil so it loses its nutrients and that is exactly what is happening to cocoa farms,” he added.
Mr. Baffoe urged all stakeholders to be concerned about the loss of forest vegetation and low production since the impact affects not only the farmers but all Ghanaians.
He said, the country could have been earning more than it currently gets if it ensured higher productivity from the existing farms.
He noted that Ghana loses 3% of its forest cover yearly and currently have less than 1 million of forest cover left.
The Africa Regional Director was strongly against farmers moving into forest areas and destroying the vegetation in their pursuit to increase the production of cocoa.
He suggested that instead of cutting down more trees, farmers should make better use of the existing farmlands to boost yield.
He said the loss of soil fertility and destruction of forest cover contributed to the country’s inability to attain the 1 million cocoa production mark.
“The cocoa productivity is going down and that we all know, if productivity is going down, farmers lose, economy loses, government loses, we all lose. Not even one stakeholder (wins) because government derives revenue from cocoa. The loss to cocoa productivity going down is a national problem. I know that cocoa production in some areas of the country was about 500-600 kilos per hectare, at the moment you heard them yesterday saying it has dropped to about 400 that is a drop of about 30%-50% which is not good for the farmers it is not good for the economy it is not good for the government,” he said.
“Again if we can improve productivity to 600 (kilos per hectare) or even higher then we may not need to move into more forest areas to meet the demand or the target that the country have set for themselves. I remember Ghana set a target of 1 million tonnes a year, we never achieved that target I think we went close to 800/900 tonnes a year. There is a possibility to go beyond that by increasing productivity in areas that are currently under cocoa farming,” Abraham Baffoe stressed.
He made these known at a press briefing at the end of a 2-day Tropical Forest Agenda conference held at the Kempinski Gold Coast City Hotel in Accra.
The TFA meeting brought together the global forest community to help accelerate action on priorities in achieving the agenda 2020 which is geared towards eliminating deforestation from major commodity supply chains.