Accra, April 16, GNA - Dr Michael Roy Appiah, Executive Director of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) has warned that Ghana's cocoa industry would not survive unless there is an infusion of farmer dynamism and utilization of research findings to improve production. He said cocoa remains a key foreign exchange earner, as well as domestic income booster, hence there was need for the farmers to be innovative to maximize the desired benefits, instead of relying on traditional methods of cultivating the crop.
Dr Appiah was delivering his inaugural address as a new fellow of the Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences (GAAS) in Accra. His topic was "Impact of Cocoa Research Innovations on Poverty Alleviation in Ghana". He noted that the low yield per unit area produced by cocoa farmers in the past had resulted in social and economic consequences such as rural poverty, rural-urban migration, deforestation, soil degradation, and poor agronomic practices.
He held that the poverty could be mitigated if farmers adopted recent research findings on the sector.
Dr Appiah said as a result of intensive research at CRIG, government initiated two programmes, which have made positive impact on the cocoa sector within the last three years.
They are the Cocoa Pest and Disease Control (CODAPEC) and the Cocoa High Technology (Cocoa Hi-Tech) programmes, which aimed at increasing yields by application of technologies developed by the Institute.
He said the adoption of research innovations has been found to alleviate poverty in cocoa producing areas and that farmers who have participated in both programmes had received adequate incomes, which have enabled them to purchase farm inputs.
Dr Appiah said the sustainability of the cocoa industry in Ghana depended on the factors of production and consumption.
The GAAS Fellow said currently the industry has only been seen as an export oriented industry, which produces cocoa only for the foreign market with very little consumption of the product in Ghana. This, he said, was not good enough, adding that the promotion of chocolate consumption and the utilization of cocoa-based products locally would immensely benefit the economy.
Dr Appiah urged government to "seriously" promote internal cocoa consumption, saying apart from the economic benefits to the farmers and the state, there are also health benefits for consumers as the product is known for the prevention of heart diseases, stroke, certain cancers and physical degeneration maladies associated with the ageing process. He suggested that government should declare cocoa as a national drink, to be promoted in schools, universities, hospitals, prisons, the Armed Forces, the hospitality industry and other public gatherings. Dr Appiah further suggested that due to the immense contribution of cocoa to the country's development, a specific day should be set aside to honour farmers and technocrats who have contributed to the growth of the industry.
He said future research on cocoa should be directed at the medicinal value of the crop, in view of claims that most of the tropical diseases could be treated with preparations from the cocoa plant. There is also the need to develop research packages for the production of organic cocoa, which was in high demand worldwide, he said.
Dr Appiah called for increased assistance for the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Disease Control and the Seed Production units to enable them to continue to help farmers with disease control programmes and seedpod production for the rehabilitation of old farms.
He suggested that the Cocoa Extension unit be revitalized to enhance better extension delivery to the farmers to maximize production.