COCOBOD Targets 800,000 Tonnes of Cocoa In 2011/12 Season

The world’s second-largest cocoa grower, Ghana, aims to produce 800,000 metric tonnes of beans for the 2011/2012 crop season, up from 750,000 metric tonnes that was targetted in the on-going 2010/11 crop season, Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) says. “This is our official figure. We know we can go above this figure all things being equal, but we must get our resources at the right time first. “We want to make sure that the necessary inputs reach farmers before the season starts,” Cocobod Chief Executive Tony Fofie told Business and Finance Times in an exclusive interview. “We are treading very cautiously with our projections, because one cannot predict the performance of the trees before the season starts. You will only know how the trees will perform when the season begins,” Fofie said. This year, Cocobod twice revised upwards its cocoa output target, citing increased fertilizser application, enhanced disease and pest control, and favourable rain patterns. According to Cocobod, as at 18th August 2011, declared cocoa purchases by private buyers reached a record 1,004,194 metric tonnes - enabling it to reach an official target that had been set for the 2012/13 season two years early. The country produced a little over 630,000 tonnes in the 2009-2010 season; a decline from its full-season record of 740,000 tonnes seen in 2005-2006. “We know the fluctuations of our production. In fact, for the past three years, when you check the graph, there is a slump because the trees develop fatigue,” Fofie said. But he explained that Cocobod will put in a lot of fertiliser application next season to forestall fatigue in the trees. Fertilisers are applied to about 30 percent of cocoa farms in Ghana. Cocobod believes more fertiliser application and programmes to control disease and pests will sustain the momentum of production. Fofie said: “We will also start our replanting exercise and rehabilitation programme for farmers next season.” Cocoa farms currently yield about 400 kilogrammes (2,204 pounds) per hectare (2.47 acres), but Cocobod plans to increase it to 1,000 kilogrammes by 2015. Though Fofie said some people were arrested for smuggling beans across the western border between Ghana and Ivory Coast, he denied it had significantly contributed to the jump in Ghana’s output. “We have put in enough measures, but ... you can't stop it completely,” he said. “In collaboration with our security agencies, we will step-up our monitoring in the upcoming season to curb it,” he added. Regarding storage facilities, Fofie told B&FT that a bumper harvest this season led to some congestion at some port and depot facilities. “The good news is that we were in control, and we worked around the challenges.” He noted that Cocobod has rented temporary storage facilities to augment capacity while fast-tracking work on warehouses under construction.