Though the issue of who first brought cocoa to the Gold Coast has come under serious debate, we know that after Tetteh Quarshie had brought the seeds from Fernando Po and planted them, other people took some of the seeds and planted them.
Soon after, cocoa became an important commodity to the country, to the extent that the seeds and cuttings were sent to neighbouring countries for planting. Since 1891 when Ghana officially began exporting cocoa, the crop has become a strong pillar of the economy. At a point in time, Ghana was the leading exporter of cocoa in the world, producing half of the global yield.
Due to the huge impactful role cocoa plays in the economy, succeeding governments have put measures in place to ensure maximum production to take advantage of the global demand and shore up the country’s finances.
A year ago, the government, and for that matter the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), announced a programme to increase cocoa yield to one million tonnes. It was a conscious, sustained, planned initiative that would involve manual pollination to ensure increase in crop production.
Currently, cocoa farmers are, on the average, producing 0.45 tonnes of cocoa per hectare, while in places such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Ecuador where hand pollination has been adopted, farmers are doing two tonnes per hectare, with some doing even more than that.
The last time the country reached the one million-tonne figure was in the 2010/2011 cocoa season. But cocoa production has since fluctuated, although the government has been providing fertiliser, among other measures, as a way of ensuring higher yields.
A section of society expressed doubt and misgiving when the one million tonne intended target was announced last year.
But the prediction by the Brong Ahafo Regional Manager of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division of COCOBOD, Dr Emmanuel Nii Tackie-Otoo, a year into the initiative, that Ghana is expected to produce more than one million tonnes of cocoa in the 2018/2019 cocoa season is assuring and shows that we are on course to attaining the target.
The Daily Graphic commends the government and COCOBOD especially for the measures put in place and urges COCOBOD to sustain the efforts.
The programme has also contributed to reducing unemployment figures, as 30,000 youth are expected to be engaged in the exercise. It will also ensure knowledge transfer, as the youth will, in the process, train cocoa farmers on the technique of pollinating their cocoa trees with their hands. We encourage other sectors of the economy to learn from this, so that every initiative will have multiple benefits for the country, as we witness in this programme.
We believe the prediction is coming from a careful assessment and appraisal of the programme and we encourage the government and COCOBOD to put in a sustained plan to achieve this laudable objective.
Our prayer is that such good programmes should not be discontinued or die out because there is change in administration at the organisational or national level, since it is with such a spirit that we can progress to the level of development that we all desire.