A story on Ghanaweb caught my attention. They reported that in light of the shortage of inorganic fertilizers across the world, COCOBOD’s Executive Director, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, warned that Ghanaian Cocoa farmers should expect severe shortages.

There is no way those materials will come. So we must all brace ourselves that come next year, it won’t be there, or even if it is going to be there maybe from other countries but it will be very limited.

Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, COCOBOD’s Executive Director

He was referring of course, to the shortages caused by the war in Ukraine, which we’ve covered extensively. But I wondered about the impact to farmers of doing without fertilizer, or if indeed as Mr Aidoo suggests, using poultry manure as an alternative could be effective.

A good fertilizer needs all the nutrients, not just half or two-thirds.

We as country will then have to look for alternatives. We have been telling the farmers that when you talk about fertilizer it is not just the inorganic fertilizer , even the organic fertilizer, poultry manure is the best, this is the time. Now we cannot get the fertilizer , let alone to make it free.

Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, COCOBOD’s Executive Director

In doing some research, I was looking for quantitative data, specifically related to Cocoa, that could shed light on the impact of the shortage, and how much of this gap could be made up with organic fertilizer, assuming that farmers had access to the quantities they need.

I came across a terrific article on LinkedIn, published in March, 2018 by Dr Dirk Lebe, who describes himself in wonderful humility as ‘A pretty experienced financial services specialist’.

I strongly recommend reading this article, which is based around Indonesia Cocoa farmers. Dr Lebe states:

“For every 1,000 kg of dried Cocoa beans and their pod husks, between 129 and 143 kg of nutrients is absorbed from the soil.”

Dr Lebe,

He then answers one of my questions, which was whether growing Cocoa has specific soil nutrient requirements, and he divides them into two categories: Macro and Secondary nutrients. The macros are the essential nutrients, and secondary nutrients help boost yield.

Cacao trees require a special ‘Cocoa fertilizer’ to ensure that the necessary macronutrients, secondary nutrients micronutrients are replenished after every harvest and to ensure higher yields. A good Cocoa fertilizer should contain Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P), Potassium (K), Calcium (Ca), Sulfur (S), Magnesium (Mg), Zinc (Zn) and Boron (B) in the right balance.

Fertilizer is nothing more than concentrated nutrients in the right ratio. Chemical fertilizer is easy to blend in the right ratios and easy to handle. A good fertilizer needs all the nutrients, not just half or two-thirds.

Dr Lebe,

Alas, I didn’t have time to research the nutrients in chicken manure, but I expect some researchers will be advising on the best alternatives. I’d also like to see, however, the projected impact of doing without the specialist fertilizer, and indeed what percentage of the farmers were using it previously, or potentially  using it incorrectly, which perversely may reduce the negative impact when it is unavailable.


  • Nick Baskett is the editor in Chief at Bartalks. He holds a diploma from the Financial Times as a Non Executive Director and works as a consultant across multiple industries. Nick has owned multiple businesses, including an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop in North Macedonia.

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