Four hundred thousand (400,000) hectares of cocoa farms are to be irrigated, this year, under a pilot project, launched by the government to boost cocoa production.
Mr. Randy Boitey, the Eastern Regional Cocoa Extension Service Officer, said this would begin with the 27 cocoa stations across the nation and some selected farms.
This, he said, could help to significantly raise crop yield and promote all-year round cocoa purchase.
Addressing a farmers rally held at Akyem-Akuboa near Akim-Oda, he said it was part of a deliberate effort to increase the nation’s cocoa production level to make up for the short fall in the world price of the commodity.
Mr. Boitey also hinted of plans to introduce artificial pollination of cocoa trees.
Research, he said, had shown that only five per cent of flowers produced by the cocoa trees “are fertilized and developed into cocoa pods”.
He indicated that through artificial pollination “it is possible to get over 80 per cent of the flowers fertilized – to produce cocoa pods”.
Mr. Boitey said the returns to the farmer would be enormous, adding that, they could harvest in excess of 10 bags of cocoa beans per acre.
He stated that they had already trained some cocoa extension officers to do the artificial pollination.
The trial would be done on 50,000 acres of cocoa farms, this year.
Mr. Boitey spoke of re-introduction of the cutting down of cocoa trees affected by the swollen shoot disease.
It is estimated that about 17 per cent of cocoa trees in the country have been affected by the swollen shoot disease and 80 per cent of these are in the Eastern and Western Regions.
He gave the assurance that farmers whose cocoa trees would be cut down were going to be paid compensation.
Besides, they would be assisted by the extension officers to re-plant the farms, he added.
Mr. James Ofori, the chief farmer of the area, encouraged the youth into cocoa farming, saying, it was rewarding.