One hundred forty million hybrid cocoa seedlings have reportedly been raised as part of a COCOBOD initiative to revive dying farms infected with Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD).
At BarTalks, we recently wrote about the progress that Ghana’s Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has made with their National Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme (NCRP). Farms that were once dying due to infection with CSSVD have been rehabilitated, and initial beneficiaries of the programme have started reclaiming their land. The goal of the NCRP was not just to rid the land of CSSVD, but also to put into place measures that will ensure the farms are healthy and prosperous for years to come.
One such measure was to plant a number of hybrid cocoa plants that are disease resistant as well as high yielding, producing fruit in about half the time that previous plants were able to. It has now been reported that the Seed Production Division (SPD) of COCOBOD have raised 140 million such seedlings, which are being raised in 650 nursery sites. The seeds will be free for distribution and handed out to farmers working on new farms as well as those rehabilitated in the programme.
Farmers were hitherto using Amelonado cocoa. It took over five to seven years to start production, and we have the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), which has done research into cocoa production and has come out with hybrids that will take two years to fruit.Mrs Faustine Asemany, Executive Director of SPD
She added that the seedlings took three to four months to germinate and would produce a maximum capacity of 1 tonne per hectare.
The effort is part of an ongoing attempt to increase Ghana’s cocoa yields after the devastating impact of CSSVD.Farmers are being trained on best agricultural practices and are given access to the materials they need to cultivate their crops properly. Mrs Asemany mentioned that the SPD intended to add an extra 12 cocoa stations over the next four years, to provide low-cost planting materials for farmers. According to the Executive Director, the process is already underway with land acquisitions and testing for viability ongoing.
COCOBOD’s Regional Manager for Eastern, Volta and Oti Regions, Dr Alex Oppong Dwapanyin, stated that Ghana has the capacity to increase its cocoa yields as well as diversify the country’s tree crop sector with coffee. He referred to the Apedwa cocoa station as an example, where only 42 hectares out of the 107 available hectares were being utilised. “The rest are being developed gradually,” he said, “It’s a centre of active COCOBOD work and as we have here, we have the seed gardens where we produce hybrid cocoa seedlings.”
Dr Dwapanyin encouraged farmers to visit their nearest centres to register for the free seedlings. Currently, there are over 10,000 seedlings across three stations in the Eastern Region ready to be planted.