Up to 60 per cent of cocoa produced in the country’s Western Region was smuggled out of the country, said Abeka Ewusi, executive director of the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease Control Unit (CSSVDCU) of the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Large quantities were smuggled into Ivory Coast rather than being sold to the Ghana Cocoa Board, Ewusi told local news agency Ghana Web.
Attracted by large price differentials elsewhere, farmers have been warned that smuggled cocoa enriches the economy of only the destination countries. In London, cocoa prices recently hit a 33-year peak with prices reaching £2,732 a tonne; the highest level since 1977.
In response to the smuggling threat, the Quality Control Division of the Ghana Cocoa Board pledged to form anti-cocoa smuggling vigilante squads. Also Security agencies have been urged to step-up anti-smuggling measures.
Cocoa smuggling not only reduces the nation’s visible exports but also jeopardizes further government support for growers, warned one leading cocoa producer.
Alhaji Abubakar Alhassan told the website that farmers risked losing government support if they failed to join forces to prevent cocoa smuggling.
The Ghana Cocoa Board has pledged to reintroduce an extension service to equip growers with the modern technologies they need to boost production. Measures include: Supplying fertilizers and hybrid cocoa seedlings at subsidized prices and compensating farmers who were forced to replant due to Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease.
Ewusi said that the board planned to distribute 8m hybrid cocoa seedlings to farmers in the Western Region this year.
Such support is needed urgently to help the nation’s farmers achieve the production target of 1m tonnes within two years.
In addition to production aids, the government intends to support pension schemes for growers, scholarship schemes and to invest in rural infrastructure.
Producers in Western Regional also want the government to construct roads in cocoa growing areas to facilitate the transport of harvested crops.
Growers have been urged to form community-based organizations to enable them to receive financial assistance and other logistics support from government and the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Ghana is the globe’s second largest producer of cocoa after Ivory Coast. Ghana exported 703,000t of cocoa during the cocoa year 2008-09 compared with 680,000t during the previous cocoa year.