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19
Sat, Aug

We need to step up value addition to cocoa

We need to step up value addition to cocoa

For many years, agriculture has remained the lifeline of the economy. Although mineral resources and of late oil play key roles in serving as engines of economic growth, majority of Ghanaians earn their livelihoods from the land.

Whereas in other jurisdictions the few farmers are involved in large-scale plantations, here in Ghana majority of farmers are involved in subsistence agriculture.

Apart from the First Republic when Dr Kwame Nkrumah experimented with large-scale plantations, we have relied on small-holder farms to feed ourselves, support manufacturing and sometimes export the surplus to earn foreign exchange.

To be fair, during the Operation Feed Yourself (OFY) programme of the Kutu Acheampong regime, the government supported farmers to venture into large-scale grain production and cash crops such as citrus and oil palm.

Somehow, we have not, as a country, put in place the incentives to attract especially the youth into agriculture. This must explain why, for some time now, we have been experiencing a decline in agricultural productivity.

Now there is talk about the need for Ghana to update its productivity in the manufacturing and the services sectors, but the economy can blossom only if agricultural production is stepped up.

It is for this reason that we salute the government for launching the Planting for Food and Jobs programme to produce more food and offer jobs to the teeming youth.

We have produced to feed ourselves and for export before and we can do same again, but that depends on a number of factors, such as the availability of land, credit, inputs and incentives for the youth to venture into farming.

So far, the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has demonstrated leadership by trying to fix the challenges in the sector, in spite of the disturbing effects of the fall armyworm invasion.

We are also aware of results from the new initiatives in the cocoa sector, where plans are underway to increase yield beyond one million tonnes in the next three years.

There are already schemes in place to increase yields, such as the free spraying of cocoa farms, the distribution of hybrid seedlings and the payment of attractive producer prices and bonuses, but more must be done to sustain the interests of farmers.

Unfortunately, the government has set in motion these interventions at the time the world market price of cocoa per tonne is plummeting.

Whatever the challenges, the Ghana Cocoa Board has launched a hand pollination programme targeted at increasing yield and employed 30,000 youth who will use their hands to pollinate cocoa trees.

The Daily Graphic thinks our efforts should not be limited to increasing yield but also value addition.

Presently, a large proportion of cocoa beans are exported in their raw form, after many years of our involvement in the industry as a major player.

We think there is no excuse to continue along that path but to explore business opportunities, both locally and abroad, to add value to our cocoa beans.