Government has secured a US$200million World Bank fund to support the tree crops sector and facilitate research and development into new varieties, improve value addition and increase cultivation capacity.

The funding support aims to scale up and increase the tree crop or cash crop sector’s contribution to gross domestic product, as part of the measures to diversify the sector away from cocoa to other equally commercial crops like cashew and rubber trees, among others.

According to the deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), Yaw Frimpong Addo – who disclosed this at the Ghana Coconut Festival third edition launch in Accra – indicated that US$100million of the facility will go into the development of the coconut, cashew and rubber value chain, under the auspices of the Tree Crop Development Authority (TCDA).

The remaining US$100million will be invested into development and transformation of the current cocoa value chain, and will be executed by the Ghana COCOBOD and others.

The deputy-minister emphasised that the initiative, dubbed the ‘Tree Crop Diversification’ project, is a six-year programme that aims to increase the export earnings capacity of the three tree crops from their current value of less than US$1billion to at least US$2.5billion within five years.

“The facility will finance the following interventions: institutionalisation and value chain governance; improve tree crops productive and climate resilience; and support for post-harvest management, value addition and market access.

“The Tree Crop Development Authority and Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) will implement the proposed tree crop diversification project under the direction of MoFA,” he said.

He further called on the coconut federation and its respective value chain associations to collaborate with government to implement the project in order to address all bottlenecks facing the industry, and to strategically position the country as a major player in the global coconut market.

The tree crops sector continues to encounter challenges. Despite an increase in output, productivity remains the greatest challenge. Inputs, technical ability and negotiating power of producers are hampered by low yields, poor coordination and inept management. Additionally, producers are unfamiliar with climate-smart agriculture (CSA) and how climate change and biodiversity loss impact agricultural production. Government and development partners therefore seek to collaborate on finding solutions to these myriad challenges for the country to harness the necessary benefits.

Tree Crop contributions to GDP

The agricultural sector is said to contribute about 20 percent of total gross domestic product (GDP) to the country; out of this, tree crops’ contribution is hovering at around 25 percent while coconut alone is about 14 percent of the six crops within this category. Cocoa, on the other hand, is said to be contributing about 70 percent of agriculture exports.

The coconut value chain, for instance, if given the needed attention could become the leading sector in the agriculture space, say experts.

President, Africa Coconut Group and 2009 National Best Farmer, Davies Korboe, emphasised that coconut – which is also referred to as the tree of life – is a multi-billion dollar industry with zero percent waste product.

He mentioned that the pharmaceutical, cosmetics, food and other manufacturing industries all depend on coconut products; hence market for the product is available, but the country’s production capacity from around 40,000 hectares is currently very low.

“Our production capacity is quite low. We need research into the development of new varieties that will ensure high-yields and better the gains of farmers, because the market is already available,” he added.

Deputy CEO of Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), Albert Kassim Diwura, on his part stressed that the country’s climate is favourable for cultivation of the crop – citing the Western, Central, Western North, Volta, Eastern and Oti Regions as potential hubs for the production of coconut.

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