government wants cocoa output sustained at 1m tonnes

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Government’s prime focus is to work toward sustaining cocoa output at the historic one million tonnes achieved in the 2010/11 season, President John Dramani Mahama has said.

“Our focus is to work toward achieving sustainable production of the historic one million tonnes of cocoa,” he revealed in his State-of-the-Nation address to Parliament last week.

He explained that the key measures Government has identified to accomplish this are the continued payment of at least 70 percent of the world market price of cocoa to farmers, and the distribution of 20 million hybrid cocoa seedlings free of charge over the next several years.

“Additionally, we will pursue the continued application of the hi-tech system to increase yield per hectare. We are also reviewing the current distribution system of subsidized inputs to ensure that they reach the farmers directly,” he said.

The President’s statement has come at a time when the industry regulator, Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), is confident it will achieve its 2012-2013 crop-year harvest target of 800,000 metric tonnes, even though the rains have delayed.

The rainfall pattern in the south and north of the Western Region, where around 55 percent of Ghana’s cocoa is produced, has been very bad this season - raising fears the harvest may be lower than projected.

Ghana operates a two-cycle cocoa year consisting of a 33-week main crop (October-June), which is mainly exported to Europe and Asia, and the minor light crop (11-week) which is discounted to local processing firms including the state-owned Cocoa Processing Company (CPC).

The main season, which opened in October last year, is getting off to a slow start and is being closely monitored by international traders. Cocoa purchases for the 2012-13 season reached 209,400 tonnes by Nov. 8th - down 31 percent on the year according to Cocobod figures.

Ghana produced an unprecedented one million tonnes of cocoa during the 2010-11 crop-year, thanks to good weather and improved farming techniques; but production declined to about 850,000 tonnes last season.

Government in October last year announced a marginal increase in the producer price of cocoa for the 2012/13 season, despite a more-than-10 percent slump in the world price of the crop in the 12-month period to that announcement.

The producer price was reviewed upward by 3.4 percent, from GH?3,280 to GH?3,392 per tonne. A bag of cocoa beans is currently sold at GH?212, from GHC205 previously, representing 78.42% of the net Free on Board (FOB) value of the crop.

Government also reduced its share of the 2012/13 cocoa export duty drastically in order to raise the producer price paid to farmers. Farmers were faced with declining world cocoa prices from US$3,000 in 2011/12 to US$2,300 in 2012/13.

In addition to the higher producer price, farmers will continue to benefit from free improved seedlings, mass-spraying, and rehabilitation of farms as well as scholarships for their children. Ghana is the second-biggest producer of cocoa in the world, with an estimated 800,000 people said to benefit directly from cocoa production.

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