By Maxwell Akalaare Adombila and Christian Akorlie
TEPA, Ghana (Reuters) -Ghana raised the state guaranteed cocoa price paid to its farmers by more than 63% on Saturday in a bid to boost their income and prevent beans being smuggled to neighbouring countries where they fetch more money as supplies tighten.
President Nana Akufo-Addo said farmers would receive 20,943 Ghana cedi ($1,837) per tonne for the new 2023/2024 season, which starts in September, compared with 12,800 Ghana cedi they got in the previous year.
Speaking at the launch ceremony of the new cocoa season in the western Tepa cocoa-growing district, Akufo-Addo said the new price was the highest paid to farmers across West Africa in more than 50 years.
The rise comes as cocoa futures have hit 46-year highs in recent weeks over concerns over tight supplies from the region, where around 70% of chocolate’s main ingredient is sourced.
December London cocoa settled up 73 pounds, or 2.5%, at 3,050 pounds per metric ton on Friday after touching the highest since 1977 at 3,053 pounds ($3,805).
The market has been setting fresh highs since late June, as crop problems including black pod disease in West Africa contribute to a substantial global deficit expected in the current 2022/23 season (October/September).
“With the predicted stable prices… the government will continue to honour our farmers with good prices in the years ahead,” Akufo-Addo told a crowd of cheering and dancing farmers.
A weakened cedi currency and a lower farmgate cocoa price in Ghana in the 2022/2023 season, compared with neighbouring Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa grower, saw beans smuggled to there and to Togo.
The smuggling contributed to a lower than expected total output from Ghana, forcing the government to close the season a month earlier than expected and bring forward the start of the new season to September instead of October.
“The difference in price has been closed and it won’t be profitable again to sell cocoa to Ivory Coast and Togo,” said Leticia Adu Yankey of Ghana Civil Society Cocoa Platform, an independent advocacy group.
Fiifi Boafo, head of public affairs at regulator COCOBOD regulator told Reuters on Saturday that Ghana is targeting an output of 820,000 metric tons for the 2023/2024 season after the increased farmgate price.
He said Ghana lost around 150,000 metric tons of beans in the current season to smuggling, and artisanal gold mining known as “galamsey”, which is destroying cocoa farms.
Boafo added that Ghana is planning to borrow $1.2 billion for its annual cocoa purchases. $800 million will come from a syndicate of banks, with $400 million from other sources.
Cameroon, another top West African cocoa producer, and the world’s fourth biggest, on Thursday raised its farmgate cocoa price by 25% to around 1,500 ($2.45) CFA franc per kg for the 2023/2024 season.
($1 = 11.4000 Ghanian cedi)
($1 = 0.8023 pounds)
($1 = 612.5300 Central African CFA franc BEAC)
(Reporting by Maxwell Adombila and Christian Akorlie Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Clelia Oziel and Alexander Smith)