Ghana’s cocoyam exports have gone down as farmers are hit with harsh weather conditions.
According to the Ghana Export Promotion Authority, cocoyam exports dropped from 242 thousand tonnes in 2009 to 33 thousand tonnes in 2012. It is ranked the fifth important staple crop in Ghana.
Officials of the Ministry of Agric are worried despite introducing farmers to modern farming practices and providing them with quality planting materials, production continue to fall drastically.
Asante Akyem South District in the Ashanti Region is noted for producing cocoyam on large scale in the past but the situation is different now.
The dwindling fortune of cocoyam business is a worry to many as the district produces below par.
Agriculture Extension Officer for Juaso, Stephen Ampoh believes misapplication of agrochemicals in addition to change in rainfall pattern has compounded low production, an observation farmers admit.
“Most farmers spray directly onto the crops. If you don’t spray right, the cocoyam becomes stunted in growth and it takes time before it rejuvenates”.
A cocoyam farmer at Boboaso near Juaso, Baba Joseph admits farmers use a lot of chemicals to clear the land before cultivation.
Businesses along the value chain have been affected. At the Kumasi Central market for instance, there was a specific section where solely for cocoyam business.
Known in the local parlance as ‘Mankani Adwasuo’ which literally translates as “Cocoyam Lane”, the market has collapsed for several months now.
The traders here complain business has gone down drastically; as traders are forced to use their stalls for other businesses. One such trader is Akua Fordjour who has stopped selling cocoyam for plantain.
“Most of us have converted our shops into other businesses because of how bad trading in the cocoyam business has been. I am selling plantain now”. She said. Besides, demand for cocoyam on the market is low, a situation traders are unable to explain.
A bag of cocoyam is between 100 and 120 Ghana Cedis. Akua explains that because patronage is low she seldom sell to make profit.
The scarcity of the commodity perhaps has pushed the price, making it expensive on the market. With patrons unable to meet the price, traders have no business selling the food item on the market.
The decline in cocoyam business means “Cocoyam leaves” also known as ‘kontomire’ business suffers. A set of smaller cocoyam leaves has increased from 1 to 2 Ghana Cedis whiles the bigger ones has seen a push from 2 to Gh 5.
Akosua Asante , who has been selling ‘Kontomire’ since 2009 no longer get ‘kontomire’ to buy because of the prolonged harmattan [dry season ]. She hopes to see the situation improved as the rain sets in.
Cocoyam is a major ingredient in the preparation of a major local dish, Fufu, in the Ashanti region. The delicacy is often prepared with cocoyam and cassava, plantain and cassava or yam and cassava.
But the cocoyam-cassava combination has apparently lost its patronage at food joints. Linda Lamis, a caterer, and Abubakar Ibrahim, manager of It’s My Kitchen Restaurant confirmed this.
Abubakar Ibrahim, Manager of It’s My Kitchen Restaurant, for instance, revealed that for months nobody has asked for cocoyam fufu, as a result, it is not on their menu anymore.
To avert the trend, Dr. Joe Manu-Aduening, the Head of Root and Tuber at Crop Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research says use of agrochemicals must be deemphasized so far as roots and tubers are concerned.
“On one hand, we advise them (farmers) to use agrochemicals for weed controls and land preparations, but on the other hand, we fail to advise them on the suitable types. We need to protect them; else we will get them extinct.” Dr Manu-Adueining added.
Baba Joseph who owns a six-acre farm at Boboaso near Juaso has seen his cocoyam harvests reduced drastically from 200 in 2014 to 20 bags in 2015.
Baba fears the worst could hit his farming business this year with unreliable rainfall patterns.
There are fears cocoyam may also just go extinct just as the good old Taro popularly called ‘Kooko’, in the local parlance.