Mr Yaw Buaben Asamoah, Director of Communication, New Patriotic Party, has said that government’s cocoa farm rehabilitation programme would increase the production of cocoa from 800,000 tonnes per annum to an estimated 1.5 million tonnes in the years ahead.

He said cocoa production in the country had declined in recent years due to the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus disease, affecting the production of cocoa as well as the livelihood of cocoa farmers.

Speaking at a press conference in Accra on the gains of the Cocoa Sector in the country, Mr Buaben said COCOBOD has directed all diseased cocoa trees to be cut down for re-planting with new hybrid cocoa seedlings.

The programme was funded by part of the US$600m syndicated loan facility granted by the consortium of Development Finance Institutions, led by the African Development Bank.

According to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana–the research arm of COCOBOD – about 16 per cent of the country’s cocoa crops was infected with diseases.

As a result of this in 2019, Ghana cut its crop forecast by 11 per cent because of the CSSV as the country’s output was severely affected by the swollen shoot disease

In a move to increase the yield of cocoa farms, he said COCOBOD in February 2020 began a nationwide pruning exercise which ended in April.

“The process which involves thinning of branches and removal of old and dead stems is estimated that after the programme is completed, cocoa farmers will experience between 15 per cent to 20 per cent increase in the production of cocoa beans,” he said.

He said the Cocoa Health and Extension Division of COCOBOD had introduced a new anti-capsid (Akate) insecticide to cocoa farmers across the country for mass spraying on cocoa farms.

The product, he said would help battle the age-long Capsid infestation and other destructive insects that swarm pre-harvest cocoa farms and attack stems, branches, pods and beans.

Mr Buaben stated that government would continue to develop innovative measures to improve the development of the country’s cocoa sector.

In order to deepen accountability and protect the public purse, and ensure value for money, he said the NPP suspended the Cocoa roads projects for an audit to be conducted, after some anomalies were noticed, including inflated costs of some of the contracts awarded to contractors.

However, he stated that contractors who were awarded genuine contracts by the National Democratic Congress with genuine claims had been paid.

Mr Buaben said government had reconsidered the utilization of funds for the scholarship scheme for Senior High School (SHS) students for building schools in the underserved communities due to the free SHS policy.