The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, has expressed concern about the increasing number of cocoa farmers growing old as that could affect the country’s crop production.
He noted that research had confirmed that most cocoa farmers are aging with an average cocoa farmer attaining 55 years, adding that, the situation could have implications on sustaining cocoa production since they cannot channel sufficient energies and resources into production.
He has, therefore, called for drastic intervention to encourage more youth to venture into cocoa farming and become the next generation of farmers to sustain production.
Dr Opuni expressed the concern in a speech read on his behalf at the inauguration of Akuafo Anigye Young Cocoa Farmers Association at Aiyinase in the Ellembelle Distinct in the Western region on Wednesday.
The move is aimed at encouraging the youth to take up cocoa farming as a lucrative venture, to sustain production and reduce youth unemployment.
It is envisaged that 100,000 youth would take up cocoa farming in the next couple of years to help the nation achieve a sustained annual output of one million metric tons of cocoa beans.
The CEO of COCOBOD therefore appealed to chiefs and landowners to make land available to the youth that would take up the challenge of venturing into cocoa farming to serve as motivation to them.
Currently, he said, there are about 800.000 cocoa farming households in the country producing an average of 850,000 metric tons annually, hence the need to sustain the efforts to achieve the set target.
Dr Opuni noted that the “Youth in Cocoa Farming Initiative,” which was introduced by COCOBOD is a special package to support prospective young cocoa farmers to maintain their farms and improve yield.
He said COCOBOD had successfully raised 50 million high yielding early bearing and disease tolerant hybrid cocoa seedlings and pod, with gestation period of two to three years.
Moreover, he said, free fertiliser and agro-chemicals are being supplied to cocoa farmers by government to enhance their work and urged young graduates to take advantage of the opportunity to venture into cocoa production as a lifelong investment to earn them sustainable income.
To enhance access to cocoa growing communities, Dr Opuni indicated that, COCOBOD is collaborating with the Ministry of Roads and Highways to rehabilitate roads leading to cocoa growing communities in the region.
He warned farmers smuggling cocoa beans and agro-chemicals to neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire to desist from the unlawful act before the law catch up with them.
The President of the Association, Mr Evans Tagbor, said the Association was formed to bring all young cocoa farmers under one umbrella to facilitate their welfare and improve good agronomic practices among members to improve cocoa yield.
He noted that cocoa farming is a lucrative business not only for the rural folks, but a viable business venture for young educated graduates to improve their lot.
He said the association had registered more than 5,000 cocoa farmers in the region and collaborating with COCOBOD to help them to access the free liquid Sidalco fertilisers and other farming inputs, as well as educating them on good-agronomic practices through the Farmer Business School instituted by the board.
Mr Tagbor appealed to the government to improve access to basic social amenities such as water, electricity, healthcare services, road network, especially in deprived cocoa growing areas in order to serve as motivation for the youth to venture into cocoa farming instead of drifting to the urban centres for non-existing jobs.
A seven-member executive was inaugurated to steer the affairs of the association.