Drought in Ghana’s Cocoa Regions Curbs Farmers’ Outlook

A lack of rain in Ghana’s cocoa-growing regions is curbing prospects for the 2012-13 crop harvest as droughts may cause budding pods to wither, according to farmers.

“We have not had proper rains from June to September, the small pods are dying,” 58-year-old Johnson Mensah, a farmer with more than 300 acres (121 hectares) in Ghana’s Western region where 55 percent of the nation’s cocoa is produced, said by phone on Sept. 19. “The situation is bad, farmers are agitated,” he said.

After reaching a record of more than 1 million metric tons in the 2010-11 season, Ghana lowered its forecast to 900,000 tons in 2011-12 and 800,000 tons for the 2012-13 harvest, which starts next month, on concerns over poor weather, according to the Ghana Cocoa Board, the regulator. Cocoa has gained 14 percent this year and traded 0.7 percent lower at 1,623 pounds ($2,642) a metric ton on London’s NYSE Liffe market by 10:44 a.m..

“This year is bad in terms of rainfall,” said Charles York, principal meteorologist at the Ghana Meteorological Service, in an interview in the capital, Accra, on Sept. 18. “The major rainy period of April to August remained cold but with no rains, there was less evaporation which inhibited rainfall.”

Below Normal

Southern Ghana, which includes the cocoa-growing regions, has a 60 percent chance of below-normal rains for the rest of the year, with a 30 percent chance the conditions will be normal, York said.

“We only pray that we get the rains between now and November, otherwise we may not even make the board’s 800,000-ton forecast,” 55-year-old Kwaku Owusu, a chief farmer who heads a group of 221 growers at Dadeasi, 24 miles east of Kumasi, said by phone on Sept. 19.

Cocobod signed a $1.5 billion trade-finance facility to fund cocoa purchases in the 2012-13 crop season, $500 million less than in the previous period. Due to the “unpredictable nature of the weather, we want to be on the side of caution,” Noah Amenyah, spokesman for the board known as Cocobod, said in an interview on Sept. 12.“We will want to take precautionary measures.”

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