President Akufo-Addo has said the government is resolved to replant all cocoa farms affected by the swollen shoot disease to help improve the yield per hectare for cocoa farmers.
Speaking at the launch of the government’s Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western North Region last Thursday, he stated that “it is important to note the significance of paying compensation to farmers and landowners, alike, where tenancy arrangement exists. This has never happened before”.
The event occurred on the first day of the President’s three-day tour of the region.
Addressing the gathering, the President stated that a survey of the country’s cocoa farms in 2017 revealed that out of the total national cultivated cocoa area of 1.95 million hectares, about 17 per cent of the cocoa tree stock was affected by the cocoa swollen shoot virus disease (CSSVD), while 23 per cent was overawed.
To that end, the President stated: “My administration came to meet a cocoa sector which had about 760,000 hectares, being either unproductive or unable to guarantee the sustainability of the industry.”
“Because of the neglect of the recent past, the disease has spread to cover every COCOBOD-delineated cocoa region in the country – Western North, Western South, Central, Eastern, Ashanti, Bono, Ahafo and Volta. Two-thirds of the blighted cocoa area in Ghana, representing some 214,000 hectares, was found in the Western North Region alone,”he added.
According to the President, so much cocoa farmland had been lost to the disease that the Western North Region, which produced over 330,000 tonnes of cocoa in 2010/2011, was now producing below 150,000 tonnes.
In response to this challenge, the President said his administration took a bold and pragmatic step for COCOBOD to secure a $600 million receivable-backed syndicated loan facility.
More than two-thirds of the amount, he said, would go directly into the rejuvenation of diseased and overage farms and productivity enhancement activities, including pruning, hand pollination and irrigation of cocoa farms.
He said the remaining amount would go to support local processing and value addition, and promotion of local consumption of cocoa products.
“Government sees the swollen shoot virus and spread as a national disaster, so if today, our cocoa farmers are being confronted by the ravages of the virus, then it is right and just that the entire country rises up to the occasion to support them back onto their feet. This is my conviction, and this is exactly what I am doing”, the President said.
President Akufo-Addo expressed the appreciation of the government to the consortium of Development Finance Institutions (DFIs), led by the African Development Bank (AfDB), for supporting the government’s productivity enhancement programmes.
“I am aware that the programme has created thousands of jobs for the youth in the beneficiary communities who have been engaged in disease spotting, cutting of diseased trees, replanting, weeding and technical assistance. In all, 50,000 youth are being recruited for the programme, which is going to run for the next five years”, he added.
Thus far, President Akufo-Addo indicated that 11,564.28 hectares of swollen shoot-affected farms in the Western North and Eastern regions had been treated and planted with cocoa, plantain and economic trees.
Additionally, 7,358 out of 8,904 affected farmers had been fully compensated.
“Government assures our cocoa farmers that not a single farmer will be left out in the ongoing compensation exercise. Every farmer, whose farm has been affected by swollen shoot, will be paid fully. The next phase of the rehabilitation programme will cover 154,400 hectares of diseased and overage cocoa farms”, the President added.