The Vice Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Ebenezer Oduro Owusu has called for a concerted effort to improve cocoa yields in order to realize the commodity’s full potential.
“As a nation, we are not putting in much effort to sustain cocoa yields in this country. We don’t seem to know what cocoa does for us as a nation and even if we do, we tend to ignore its benefits,” Professor Owusu said.
Professor Owusu, who assumed office as the head of the country’s premier university in August noted this in his remarks at the 5th Tetteh Quarshie Memorial Lecture held at the University of Ghana Business School (UGBS).
Currently, cocoa constitutes about 20 percent of the country’s merchandise export, contributes three percent of Gross Domestic Product, provides employment for almost a million farmers, and is a source of livelihood for millions of citizens in six out of the country’s 10 administrative regions.
Cocoa production for 2015/2016 crop year stood at 690,000 metric tonnes, falling short by 160,000 metric tonnes of the targeted 850,000 metric tonnes. The deficit among others was attributed to unfavorable weather conditions and inadequate support to the sector.
The decline is an indication of the continuous fall in cocoa production since production hit an all time high of 1,024,552 metric tonnes in the 2010/2011 crop year.
Professor Owusu noted that Ghanaians are not actively preserving the value of cocoa, pinning the decline in cocoa production on the fact that Ghanaians do not cherish the commodity.
He added that the challenge can be addressed when Ghanaians promote cocoa locally and internationally. He also charged the youth and Faculties in the University of Ghana to collectively contribute to the preservation of Tetteh Quarshie’s legacy.
The Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dr.G.J Anim-Kwapong said despite the existence of other resources such as gold,oil and gas, cocoa remains the backbone of the economy with about US$3 billion realized in 2013 compared to US$700 million from oil and gas.
Dr. Anim-Kwapong stressed on the inadequate labour force in the cocoa industry. With almost 60% of the farmers being above 50 years,the cocoa industry is in dire need of young farmers who can efficiently work to increase production.
He suggested that, cocoa farming should be made lucrative to attract more people especially the youth, to enhance cocoa production in the country.
He explained: “To motivate cocoa farmers to boost output and encourage the youth to take up cocoa farming as a lucrative business, the Ghana Cocoa Board will ensure that farmers are paid remunerative prices. For the 2014/15 cocoa season, farmers’ were paid GH¢5,600 per ton including bonus. This price was increased by 21.4 percent to GH¢6,800 per ton for the 2015/16 cocoa season including bonus.”
COCOBOD estimate that about 30,000 youth are currently engaged in the cultivation of cocoa in all the crop’s growing regions in the country. It is expected that increased interest in cocoa farming will help to replace the aging farmer syndrome that is catching up with the industry.
It is envisaged that 100,000 youth will take up cocoa farming in the next couple of years to help the nation achieve a sustained annual output of one million metric tonnes of cocoa beans.