ACCRA, April 11 (Reuters) - Ghana plans to introduce hand pollination of cocoa seedlings and will begin irrigating farms as part of plans by the world’s second largest grower to boost production to 1 million tonnes by 2020, the government said on Tuesday.
The government is hiring around 5,000 people to pilot artificial pollination in some 30 districts this year and will also provide solar pumps to irrigate farms in the dry season, deputy agriculture minister William Agyapong Quaittoo said.
“Drought in our cocoa belt does not last beyond three months and we believe that any irrigation ... could make a big difference,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the launch of the local sourcing unit of commodities trader Cargill .
“It is all part of the president’s policy to restore production to 1 million tonnes or more, irrespective of where prices are at,” said Quaittoo, a former Cocobod research manager. He referred to President Nana Akufo-Addo, who was sworn in on Jan. 7.
Ghana is on track to exceed its revised 800,000-tonne target for cocoa this season due to good rains this year, the chief executive of regulator Cocobod said last week.
Cocobod has typically bought in ready pollinated seedlings from growers to feed its nurseries, or relied on natural pollination by wind and birds. It hopes the new scheme will improve the chances of pollination and produce better seedlings.
The government also plans to boost local cocoa processing to 50 percent, up from 33 percent currently, Quaittoo said.
“We’re embarking on a vigorous campaign to promote local consumption in the region in order to have a market for processed cocoa,” he said. Cargill will be one of around 45 companies licensed to buy from farmers on behalf of Cocobod.
The company, which operates a 65,000 tonne capacity processing plant in Ghana, will finance the purchases from its own resources and will be reimbursed by Cocobod, its regional director Lionel Soulard told Reuters. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Mark Potter)