Cocoa sector needs better protection to secure our export revenues
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Cocoa sector needs better protection to secure our export revenues

The quarterly trade newsletter of the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) has revealed a disturbing report about the fortunes of the country’s cocoa export earnings.

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According to the report, the export value of cocoa products in the first quarter (Q1) of this year plummeted by some 32.8% in the first quarter of the year, bringing earnings to a low of US$592.2 million when compared to the same period in 2023.

It also indicates a US$233.6 million loss in export revenue compared to the average for the past three years.

The figure is also relative to the average of US$825.8 million for the first quarters of the last three years (2021, 2022 and 2023). 

The worrying development is that exports of cocoa products usually peak in the first quarter of the year. 

According to the report, the decline was driven by a collapse in exports of cocoa beans in Q3 of the past two years. 

In 2021, exports of cocoa beans didn’t fall below US$225 million in a single quarter, but in 2022 and 2023, they reached lows of US$44.7 million and US$13.5 million, respectively.

The Graphic Business finds the development extremely worrying since cocoa seems to be the largest source of foreign exchange earnings for the country.

We are aware of various reports which suggest that the decline in the country’s volume of cocoa produced is attributed to several factors, chief of which is illegal mining practices, galamsey, which is fast destroying the country’s cocoa vegetation across all cocoa growing areas.

Others include the swollen shoot disease and old cocoa trees which have reached their life span and can no longer produce as much as expected.

To us, the development is not only shameful but a critical red flag that the government must no longer take lightly.

Particularly, at a time when the doors of the international capital markets have been shut to the country because of its unsustainable debt levels, a lot more needs to be done to ensure that we protect sources of funds such as the export of cash crops such as cocoa which has remained the largest contributor to the country’s foreign exchange basket.

As a paper, we are increasingly at a loss as to why the government has not been able to stop the wanton destruction caused by galamsey, particularly in cocoa growing areas to protect our key revenue source.

We wonder what the country will be left with should all the cocoa trees we have currently be destroyed through these illegal mining practices.

Today, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is heavily indebted because it has not been able to raise enough cocoa to sell to defray the huge sums of money syndicated for the purchase of the crop.

Indeed, the Graphic Business can tell unequivocally that we are sitting on a ticking time bomb and the earlier the government stops paying lip service to this galamsey menace, the better for the present and future generations.

It is unimaginable that at this crucial time when our coffers have sunk so low that all we can do is to borrow internally to continue development projects, we sit aloof to watch a few unscrupulous persons destroy the source of the country’s fortunes.

This report must not be taken lightly nor should it be taken for granted because losing as much as $237 million in just one quarter, a period where, under normal circumstances, we should be raking in more revenue from the sale of the cash crop, is not only disturbing but most unfortunate.

Considering the fact that we are the second largest producer of the crop, this development should be a source of worry. 

Again, we need to bear in mind that there are other countries such as China among others which are researching so deep into how to start commercial production of cocoa to give Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire a run for their money.

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It is our fervent hope that the signal from this report will awaken us to do what is right to stop our cocoa plantations from further destruction.

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