Cocoa purchases in Ghana drop to a third

Cocoa purchases declared by private buyers to Ghana’s COCOBOD industry regulator in the first 12 weeks of the 2008/09 season were down by a third at just over 300,000 tonnes, industry sources said on Tuesday.

The first 12 weeks of the 2007/08 season, which started slightly later in the year than the current season, saw buyers purchase some 480,000 tonnes of beans in Ghana, the world’s second biggest cocoa producer after neighbouring Ivory Coast.

Optimism the earlier start to the season may contribute to a bumper harvest has given way to disappointment as purchases have failed to keep pace even with last season’s average harvest.

However, one industry source said there were signs that rains falling ahead of the seasonal Harmattan wind would help crop development for a late harvest from February.

“We are beginning to see the pattern we saw in 2005/06, where we did not have the expected high yield in the first three months until getting to end,” the source said, adding that field analysis had indicated that this year’s crop “will come later.”

Ghana harvested a record 740,457 tonnes in 2005-06.

“The slow output is not a problem for now because there are signs that we are not going to get a severe Harmattan, that means the season may be good at the end like we saw in 2005-06,” the source added.

Rainfall data released by the Ghana Meteorological Agency this week showed rainfall in many cocoa growing areas was higher in the first 10 days of December than a year ago.

Cocobod has projected to buy about 650,000 tonnes of cocoa through the entire crop year, including 600,000 tonnes from the main crop, which usually starts in October and lasts 33 weeks.

This season’s main crop is set to last longer than that because the government opened the season several weeks early to counter a surge in smuggling of Ghanaian beans across the border to Ivory Coast to take advantage of relatively high prices there.

Ghana has set an ambitious target of harvesting 1 million tonnes of cocoa by 2010 through increased use of fertilisers and improved farming practices.

“Where’s the cocoa?”

The source said the 650,000-tonne target was attainable.

“We have been monitoring the yield and for now we have no basis to say that we are not going to achieve it.”
But both buyers and farmers have told Reuters the season had been slow compared to last year.

“Nobody seems to know where the cocoa is. We had expected to be seeing the end of the bullish period at this time, which normally gives way to other diversionary activities such as the Christmas but that didn’t happen this year,” a top buyer said.

Atta Kyere, a 68-year-old cocoa farmer in the Western region, said his harvest had dropped by more than 10 percent.

“It’s not only me … Everbody is complaining the harvest is slow, except a few patches on the northern zone of the (Western) region which have recorded some levels,” Kyere told Reuters.

But he said all was not lost yet, and he hoped yields would pick up in January.

“Sometimes it happens, we have gone through this before — about three years ago — so we’re looking up to the period after the Harmattan,” he said.

Credit: Kwasi Kpodo

Source: Reuters

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