About 17 per cent of the country’s cocoa farms have been affected by the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD), thus threatening cocoa production.
The figure represents more than 315,000 hectares of the 1.6 million hectares of the country’s entire cocoa farms.
Per COCOBOD estimate a hectare of cocoa farm contains 900 trees and by this calculation 283, 500,000 of cocoa trees in the country are affected by the CSSVD.
This was revealed by the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control, Emmanuel Agyeman Dwomoh in a speech read on his behalf by the Head of Cocoa Health Extension Division of COCOBOD, Dr Emmanuel Nii Tackie-Otoo at a meeting of stakeholders in the cocoa industry.
The programme, organised by the Mennonite Economic Development Associates (MEDA), a Christian international non-governmental organisation in collaboration with COCOBOD, and attended by international development organisations and non-governmental organisations, and cocoa buying companies, was to discuss measures to combat the CSSVD.
The CSSVD which broke out in the country in 1936, according to COCOBOD is a plant pathogenic virus that affects cocoa trees, which decreases cocoa yields within the first year of infection and eventually kills the tree within some few years.
Mr Dwomoh said the country had been experiencing dwindling cocoa production after the 2010/11 cocoa crop year, when the country produced one million metric tonnes of cocoa due to the CSSVD infection, adding that the country’s cocoa production of 900,000 metric tonnes in the 2016/17 crop season further declined to 811,000 in the 2018/19 crop season due to the CSSVD.
The Deputy CEO in charge of Agronomy and Quality Control also said the Western North Region which used to be one of the largest cocoa producing regions of the country was recording drop in cocoa production.
In the 2015/16 crop season, he said the region produced 350,000 metric tonnes of cocoa but the figure dropped to 140,000 metric tonnes in 2017/18 crop season.
To reverse the threat of the CSSVD, Mr Dwomoh said COCOBOD over the years had initiated programmes to combat the disease.
He said COCOBOD had currently completed a pilot project in the Western North and Eastern regions to combat the CSSVD and efforts were being made to extend it to other regions, such as Volta, Ashanti, Central and Western North regions.
Mr Dwomoh said about 2000 hectares of cocoa farms had been replanted in the two regions.
The Country Director of MEDA, Robert E. Austin said his outfit was supporting COCOBOD to tackle the CSSVD menace and the programme was to elicit the support of stakeholders in the cocoa industry to tackle the CSSVD.
He said his outfit was supporting COCOBOD to develop 30-hectares of irrigated hybrid cocoa seedling gardens in Bunsu and Goaso to ensure constant supply of hybrid cocoa seedlings to farmers whose farms have been cut down due to the CSSVD, to replant.
In addition, Mr Austin said MEDA had embarked on a one- year sensitisation campaign to educate farmers on the need to cut down their CSSVD-affected cocoa farms and replant.
He said MEDA’s support to COCOBOD was under its Farmers’ Economic Advancement through Seedlings project, which is meant to economically empower about 100,000 female cocoa farmers in the country.
BY KINGSLEY ASARE