Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama might be a seer for he could foresee that crude oil prices on the international market were going to fall below US$90.00 just when the country seems to be enjoying a bit of its newly found oil. He intoned at the opening of a new headquarters of the Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers’ Association in Accra that ‘…cocoa is our mainstay not oil …’ as the country launched an ambitious US$40.625mn programme to replant and rehabilitate the country’s aging cocoa farms for the 2014-2015 cocoa season.
The cocoa industry which has played a crucial role in the country’s development is threatened by the increasing number of aging farmers as well as cocoa trees whose yields are expected to significantly reduce in the coming years.
COCOBOD in its bid to mitigate this risk says it will cut down the trees and replace them with new ones as stated by the board’s chief executive Dr Stephen Opuni who made it clear that COCOBOD has “actually budgeted enough money to start the farm rehabilitation which will include cutting over-aged trees, especially those more than 30 years old. This is about 20 per cent of existing cocoa farms.”
In addition, the board is also training and encouraging the youth into the industry through initiatives such as the “Young Cocoa farmers Association which is meant to educate young people to let them know cocoa farming is a lucrative business and therefore if they go into it, they will make a lot of money.”
This revolutionary approach to become the world’s leading cocoa exporter, a position she relinquished to her western neighbour Cote d’Ivoire some years ago was reiterated by the president as he told the gathering that contrary to the expectations of many, the Ghanaian government will continue to invest heavily in agriculture especially cocoa because cocoa remains the key foreign exchange earner for the Ghanaian economy and not oil.
"The contribution of oil to our national budget last year was only US$700mn. Cocoa brought US$3bn into our economy. So cocoa is still the mainstay of our economy and we must put our money where our mouths are," the president noted.
"Every year we earn anything close to US$3bn on cocoa alone and yet people are more excited about oil. Ghana has discovered oil so our lives are going to change. Cocoa still affects our lives more than oil."