The governments of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire are close to securing a $1.2 billion loan from the African Development Bank to undertake programmes and interventions that will make the cocoa industry attractive to the youth.
Six million dollars of the amount will go into the rehabilitation of the industry while the rest will be used to promote value addition to domestic processing of cocoa beans.
This was disclosed by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, on the first day of a 10- day familiarisation tour of the Ashanti, Brong Ahafo and Northern regions where he shared with farmers, the interventions that the government was putting in place to resuscitate the industry.
Ghana's share of the facility will go to support the youth with seedlings and acquisition of land and stipend for three years when the gestation period is expected to end for them to be on their own.
According to Mr Aidoo, a cocoa factory is to be constructed at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western Region by the end of the year to add value to cocoa beans produced in the country.
He told journalists that there were six additional local factories that had been penciled to receive $150 million international loan, for which COCOBOD would provide a matching fund.
Additionally, he stated that COCOBOD had received approval to source for $1.3 billion to support operational activities in relation to cocoa production in the country.
The CEO of the board said the loan was being syndicated by five offshore banks and was expected to be consummated by September 20, 2018 when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo appends his signature to the deal in China.
“The money will support a number of interventions to make the cocoa sector viable,” he said.
The interventions, Mr Aidoo stated, would include cutting down 10,000 hectares of diseased cocoa trees in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire by August 25, this year.
The measures also include pollination, pruning, early spraying and irrigation of cocoa farms.
Mr Aidoo said currently, about 40 per cent of cocoa trees were either overage or affected by disease.
He also expressed concern about the apparent lack of interest in the industry by some cocoa farmers who had now turned to planting rubber and cashew and ‘galamsey’ due to the fluctuating price of the commodity on the world market.
Despite these challenges, the CEO said he was optimistic that the country’s target to produce 900,000 tons of cocoa for the 2018/2019 crop year would be achieved.
“The target denotes 50,000 metric tons more than the 2017/18 target of 850,000 metric tons,” he said.
He added that there were also plans to scale up domestic processing of the cocoa beans and increase local consumption of cocoa products.
Mr Aidoo hinted that due to the medicinal and nutritional value of cocoa, food derivatives from the crop were to be included in the menu for schoolchildren under the school feeding programme to enhance their intelligence quotient (IQ) levels.