Ghana Plans Cocoa Irrigation as Poor Rainfall Curbs Output

Ghana Plans Cocoa Irrigation as Poor Rainfall Curbs Output
Farmers gather dried cocoa beans in a village outside of Kumasi, in Ghana. Photographer: Jane Hahn/Bloomberg News

Ghana, the world’s second-biggest cocoa producer, is planning an irrigation system to ease farmers’ reliance on rainfall, said Tony Fofie, chief executive officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board.

“We are looking at sinking boreholes within very large farms where we can have drip irrigation for the plants,” he said in an interview in Swedru, in Ghana’s Central region, yesterday. “The rainfall patterns have actually changed, we risk losing cocoa in periods of drought.”

The board, which regulates the country’s cocoa industry, has forecast that production will fall in the 2012-13 season to 800,000 metric tons because of poor weather. Ghana reaped a record crop in the 2010-11 season of more than 1 million tons, according to the board. Cocoa was Ghana’s second-biggest source of foreign currency in the five months through June, earning $1.8 billion, according to the Bank of Ghana.

Programs to boost output need rainfall at appropriate times to be effective, Fofie said. “We can only apply fertilizers where there is rainfall,” he said. The board also provides insecticide and other chemicals to farmers to curb the spread of insects and diseases including black pod rot fungus.

High Temperatures

A pilot irrigation program “will start soon to ensure we have cocoa all year round,” Fofie said, without saying how much it would cost. The board has also developed new seed varieties that can survive high temperatures and droughts, he said. “We have started distributing some of them to the northern part of the country, especially the Brong Ahafo region where rainfall is less,” he said.

Brong Ahafo accounts for about 9 percent of Ghana’s cocoa production. It shares a border with Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer, and the Western region, Ghana’s biggest-growing area. Cocoa for March delivery dropped 1.1 percent to 1,560 pounds ($2,520) a ton by 10:21 a.m. on the NYSE Liffe market in London.

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