Ghanaian, Ivorian cocoa yield in doubt as farmers shun costly fertilizers

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SOUBRE — Cocoa farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast cannot afford to buy fertilizers and other products needed to increase yield on their plantations because their price has doubled and in some cases trebled compared to a year earlier, they told Reuters.

Fertilizer prices have rocketed worldwide this year due to high energy prices and supply disruption caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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Using less or even no fertilizer is likely to reduce the volume of production in Ivory Coast and Ghana, which together account for around 60% of global cocoa supply.

Around 15 Ivorian farmers said they had not fertilized their fields once this year as it had become unaffordable.

A 50 kilogram (110.23 lb) bag of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) costs between 36,000 and 38,000 CFA francs ($57-$60), more than double the price in 2020 and 2021, they said.

Fulbert Kouamé, who farms 8 hectares in Soubre region at the heart of the Ivorian cocoa belt, said the state regulator recommended applying fertilizer at least once a year and fungicides at least three times.

“This year I didn’t do anything because I couldn’t afford to,” he said.

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In neighboring Ghana, which usually imports around half of its fertilizer from Russia, a 50 kg bag of NPK fertilizer costs at least 320 Ghanaian cedi ($35) compared to 108 cedi last year, eleven farmers in its two main cocoa regions said.

Ghana is more vulnerable to these price increases than Ivory Coast, because its cocoa plantations are older and the soil is in greater need of being enriched.

It is also grappling with a broader economic crisis. Inflation accelerated to 31.7% in July, while the cedi currency has weakened around 30% this year.

“I didn’t even have enough money this year for my family and me,” said Jerome Appiah, who farms three hectares of cocoa in Ghana’s Western region.

“I prefer to skip the (fertilizer) treatment this year even though I know my production will drop. I have no choice.”

($1 = 633.0000 CFA francs / 9.1000 Ghanaian cedi) (Editing by Alessandra Prentice and Barbara Lewis)

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