A four-day regional workshop on management of cocoa pests and pathogens in Africa opened in Accra on Monday, with a call on participating countries to contribute towards preventing the spread of cocoa pests and diseases on the continent.
The event is expected to provide the platform for these countries; Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Togo and Cameroon, to share experiences with experts from Brazil, Malaysia and Ecuador on foreign (exogenous) pests and pathogens as well as on measures to prevent its spread to Africa.
It was also to launch the start of a four-year project dubbed: “Integrated Pest Management “(IPM) aimed at accessing cocoa production losses caused by pests and diseases in the participating countries.
The project is also to encourage the application of best known practices for the control of weeds, pests and diseases of cocoa, and to build the capacity of farmers and stakeholders, to meet international standards, thereby improving their export potential to consumer markets.
It is initiated by the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC) and with the joint support of International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
The total cost of the project is estimated at 3.2 million dollars of which CFC is funding 1.2 million dollars.
Speaking at the opening session of the workshop, Mrs Afriyie Haffar, a Board Member of COCOBOD, called for regional and international collaboration to address the problems of pests and diseases.
She said “we live in a global village and the risks of dangerous invasions by pests and diseases are extremely high.”
Mrs Haffar said that the project needed to be supported to institute the necessary measures to prevent possible invasions and disasters.
Mr Anthony Fofie, Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, observed that management of “mirids” and “black pods” diseases in Ghana cost millions of dollars yearly.
He said: “whist we have made strides through the National Cocoa Pests and Diseases Control Programme to manage the diseases and pests pressures, key challenges remain”.
The challenges included helping farmers to use only approved pesticides and the right quantity as well as the development and release of diseases and pests resistant varieties.
Dr Jean-Marc Anga, Executive Director of ICCO, called on participating countries to implement all the components of the project in a holistic manner to ensure it succeeded.
An estimated 40 per cent of global annual cocoa production is lost to insects, pests and diseases, and currently, cocoa pests and diseases follow a regional pattern of distribution and are indigenous to specific geographic areas.
There is, however, an increasing threat of global spread of cocoa pests and diseases outside their current geographic distribution.
Mirids, the aggressive black pod, and cocoa swollen shoot virus are the main indigenous pests and diseases affecting cocoa production in Africa.
In the current global market, with speedy communication and travel, trade links and the movement of humans and commodities all over the world, there is a greater and serious risk of introducing exogenous pest and disease to new regions or continents including Africa.