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October 17, 2011

Ghana cocoa industry regulator admits, denies cocoa climate change challenges


The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), regulators of the country's cocoa industry, has downplayed the findings of a report which suggests that cocoa production in West African could fall by two per cent as a result of rising temperatures.

The  Public Affairs Manager of the board, Mr Kwesi Amenya said, "the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRlG) has already started developing cocoa plants that are drought-resistant as mitigations against some of these weather changes."

The said report was recently released by the Colombia-based institution International Center for Tropical Agriculture. The report explained that with average temperatures predicted to increase in West Africa by more than one degree celsius by 2030 and two degrees celsius by 2050, "many of the existing cocoa-growing areas will become significantly less suitable for cocoa production."

West Africa produces more than half of the world's cocoa.

The findings of the report come at a time COCOBOD and its stakeholders are patting themselves on the back for having attained a production target of one million tonnes in the 2010/2011 cocoa season, two years into the target year of 2013.

Although the report gave a 20-year period within which cocoa production in the region will begin to fall, industry analysts in the country fear the situation could cripple Ghana's rising production figures currently at a little above one million tonnes.

"Why should we panic?" asked the COCOBOD Public Relations Manager. "We do not know the plans of God regarding climate change; things may get different along the line leading to the report's projected years," Mr Amenya said.

But should the report's projections of "unsustainable conditions" for cocoa productions by 2030 materialise, he added, "our mitigating factors will insulate our farmers from any projected production falls." Amenya explained that while the authors of the report assumed that cocoa trees in the region were not planted under shade, the situation in Ghana was contrary as farmers are constantly encouraged to plant their trees under shade.

"What this means is that Ghana as a cocoa producing country has an upper hand as far as the negative effects of rising temperatures on cocoa are concerned," Mr Amenya claimed.

He, however, admitted that rising temperatures resulting from harsher climatic conditions were a threat to cocoa production in the country. "And that is a worry to COCOBOD because of its impact on the farmers, government's ability to generate income and the economy at large," he said.

Cocoa production currently accounts for 3.4 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Products (GDP) the monetary value of goods and services produced in the country. Consequently, Mr Amenya said the board would intensify its programmes such as reforestation, planting under shades and the like. All are aimed at mitigating the possible effects of rising temperatures on cocoa plantation.

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