New Tafo (E/R), June 18, GNA - The Head of European Union (EU) Delegation in Ghana, Mr Stefan Frowein, has commended Ghana for effectively using a 10.3 million euro grant from the Union in fighting swollen shoot disease on cocoa trees.
Mr Frowein, therefore, pledged the EU's further financial assistance towards research projects to bolster the growth of the cocoa industry as the lead foreign exchange earner for the country. Mr Frowein made the commendation when he and seven other members, representing a group of Heads of EU Missions in Ghana, paid a day's working visit to the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) at New Tafo on Thursday to acquaint themselves of its operations.
The group, led by the Netherlands Ambassador, Mr Arie van der Wiel, who is the president of the Heads of EU Mission in Ghana, undertook a field trip to observe traditional methods of processing cocoa from pods-breaking to drying by local farmers.
Mr van der Weil expressed the group's satisfaction about how the EU support was being utilized effectively to improve the cocoa industry, thereby helping in poverty alleviation and employment generation. Briefing members of the group, the Co-ordinator of the EU Support Project on Cocoa, Dr Stephen Twum Ampofo, announced that 8.3 million euros out of the grant had been used to fight the Swollen Shoot Disease since the project began in 2000.
He said out of the grant, 170,000 euros was used for seedlings development through irrigation, 572,000 euros on cocoa research and 294.7 euros for CRIG institutional reforms.
Dr Ampofo said 33 million cocoa trees afflicted by the Swollen Shoot virus would be cut down out of a total of 45 million diseased trees targeted for replacement by December this year.
He said currently CRIG had about 28 hectares of seed gardens producing cocoa seedlings to be supplied to farmers for replanting to replace their diseased trees.
In addition, farmers whose diseased trees were being cut down as part of the replacement exercise were being paid a compensation of about four million cedis per acre.
A Deputy Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board in charge of Agronomics, Mr Tony Fofie, who accompanied the group, said the Board currently had on its list about 24 active licensed buying companies, including four expatriate firms.
The Executive Director of CRIG, Dr M.R. Appiah, said with the support from the government and its partners, especially the EU, the Institute had been implementing its research findings to boost cocoa production.
He cited the Cocoa Pest and Disease Programme and the cocoa hi-tech packages as products of such research findings.
Dr Appiah said a major problem facing the Institute was the lack of communication system such as Internet connectivity to link the outside world to enable it keep abreast with research findings elsewhere. 18 Jun. 04