Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, the Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), has called for measures to remedy the falling cocoa prices on the world market.
In a speech read on his behalf at the opening of the Sustainable Smallholder Agri-Business – Kick-Off of Regional Partners Meeting on Tuesday, in Accra, Mr Aidoo said the current low world cocoa prices of $1,800 per tonne, falling from a high of $3,100 within the 10-months period, raises a great task, not only to producers, but also to consumers.
“As producers struggle to survive the cutting effect of low incomes from the commodity, both producers and consumers stand to suffer the long-term damage if we fail to adopt measures today to remedy the situation,” he stated.
Mr Aidoo noted that, the current cocoa price challenge compounded the already existing problems of the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease at endemic levels, over-aged cocoa farms, pests and other diseases.
He said with the support of the Government of Ghana, COCOBOD had lined up some interventions to assist cocoa farmers to raise farm productivity as a strategic response to minimise the impact of the low cocoa prices on producer income.
“Our primary focus remains on treating the deadly swollen shoot diseased farms and offer extension services based on good agricultural practices, to raise productivity and restore farmer confidence in sustaining production,” he said.
The three-day meeting is being attended by over 100 stakeholders from Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Cameroun and the Ivory Coast as well as delegates from the European Union.
Mr Aidoo said in Ghana, the cocoa industry employs a significant number of the population, meeting the livelihood needs of over 800,000 farm families and several thousands of workers in the value chain.
“As we produce, we must be innovative in our handling of the challenges that confront the industry to survive the rapidly changing market environment. One of the several available strategies is to explore synergies with our partners as the way forward to reaching our goals,” he said.
Mr Aidoo hailed GIZ for enhancing the income earning capacity of cocoa farmers across the West Africa sub-region under the Sustainable Smallholder Agri-business (SSAB) project.
He said the peak of the SSAB programme had coincided with the difficult times in the cocoa industry’s modern history when prices had fallen to historical lows and threatening the sustainability of supply and survival of producers.
The SSAB’s goal is to help 404,600 male and female smallholders, mainly in cocoa growing areas of Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, the Ivory Coast and Cameroun, to sustainably improve their incomes and food supplies from diversified production.
The project, which comes to a close by the end of 2018, focuses on areas such as the provision of support for public and private extension services to organise skills training for smallholders following the Farmer Business School approach.
Mr Aidoo said the SSAB project had been very useful to cocoa producers where adoption rate had been reported to be over 70 per cent.
He said COCOBOD would build on the foundation laid by GIZ to advance the cause of cocoa farmers and their families.
“We have initiated the process to incorporate the Farmer Business School/Cooperative Business School modules in the curricula of the Bunso Cocoa College to ensure the Sustainability of the programme,” he said.
The Ghana Head of Cooperation of the German Embassy, Mrs Verena Wiesner said supporting the cocoa sector in Africa was a priority of the German Government.
She said among the pillars of the SSAB strategy were business skills for farmers, sustainable production, diversification, strong producer organisations, access to finance and Chocolate made in Africa.
Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, Deputy Chief Executive, COCOBOD, urged Ghana and the Ivory Coast, which accounts for over 70 per cent of the global cocoa production, to collaborate, in order to determine the prices of the commodity on the world market.
Dr Emmanuel Opoku, Executive Director, Cocoa Health and Extension Division, COCOBOD, said the meeting would enable participants to share their experiences of ongoing programmes designed to enhance the sustainability of the cocoa business.