Ghana 2010-11 cocoa purchases up 55 per cent

The provisional tally for Ghana's 2010-11 cocoa main crop purchases reached a record 904,000 tonnes, some 55 per cent above last year's levels, the head of Ghana's Cocoa Board (Cocobod) has said.

Chief Executive Tony Fofie, who dismissed reports the tally was padded by large amounts of beans being smuggled into Ghana from Ivory Coast, said the light crop would produce "at least 80,000 tonnes." Cocobod has twice revised upwards its target for cocoa purchases this year and the world's No. 2 grower is set to smash the previous full-season record of 740,000 tonnes seen in 2005-2006.

"The purchases have hit 904,000 tonnes - it's a record achievement and it shows that the government's renewed strategy to raise production is working," Fofie said of the main crop, which began in October and ran through until May 19. Fofie said the light crop started on June 10, a week later than expected, but it would hit 80,000 tonnes: "It could be more because we still have lots of cocoa pods on the farms."

Some analysts say the political crisis in neighbouring Ivory Coast led to more beans being smuggled into Ghana as the industry in Ivory Coast was paralysed for months by ports shutting down and sanctions on the industry regulators. But Ghana has repeatedly rejected this and Fofie called such claims "imaginations."

"We have doubled our fertiliser use, we have significantly scaled up disease and pests control - generally, we are doing a lot more now to sustain high production and also ensure that our farmers are well motivated and rewarded," Fofie said. "In addition, we've had very good rains that bolstered pod development and maturity this year, more than we've seen recently," he said.

Ghana has set itself the target of purchasing at least one million tonnes of cocoa a year by the 2012-13 season.

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