Cocoa: Ghana's double game.

Author:Heathcote, Baaba
Position::Brief Article

Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d'Ivoire and Cameroon signed an accord last year to burn 250,000 tons of their next season cocoa crop in a bid to force up the falling world market price. Yet, Ghana has recently launched a programme to increase cocoa production. What message is Ghana sending out?

Despite the low price of cocoa on the international market, Ghana has launched a 20-billion-cedi programme to increase cocoa production by next year in the face of calls to the government to diversify exports.

Under the programme, codenamed "Hi-Tech Maintenance Scheme", soft loans will be given to a select group of cocoa farmers whose farms fall within the 100,000 acres of farmlands identified for the programme. They will use the money to rehabilitate and maintain their farms and apply the latest farming technologies. To ensure the success of the programme, Ghana's Cocoa Research Institute and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture will keenly supervise and monitor the farmers. A private cocoa buying company, CASHPRO, has been roped in to offer the required support in terms of crop purchases.

Top officials of Ghana's agriculture ministry are very positive about the scheme because they say a similar project embarked upon by the country over two decades ago, resulted in an all time record yield of 500,000 metric tons.

Available statistics indicate that cocoa farmers produce on average, 250 kilograms per acre in one season, far below the government's expected target.

While beneficiary farmers have hailed the new programme, political analysts are questioning the sincerity of the government to the Abidjan Accord signed last year in which four of the world's leading producers of cocoa, including Ghana, agreed to reduce their production (by burning 250,000 tons of cocoa beans next crop season) in a bid to force up the world market price.

Ghana, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria...

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