Efforts to revamp cocoa growing
Posted Wednesday, February 6 2013 at 00:00
There is potential for those farmers who intend to venture into cocoa production to use clean seedlings, which are multiplied by both private and public nursery operators including agricultural research institutes like the Coffee Research Institute (Corec) at Kituuza in Mukono District.
Dr Patrick Wetala, who is leading the cocoa research at Corec, says many farmers in Bundibugyo, Mukono, Kayunga, Iganga, Jinja, Kamuli, Buikwe, Masindi and Mayuge Districts, have developed interest in growing cocoa because the plant has the capacity to increase their income for better livelihood.
“Corec has been the main centre for cocoa research from 1956 when the first materials were planted. We obtained different varieties such as the Upper Amazon variety, which contain grooves. This variety is the best because it produces large pods and seeds. Others are Trinitario variety, which produces pods in red colour and is more tolerant to pest and diseases, and the Melonado variety, which produces small pods. We obtained all these varieties from Trinidad and Tobago and West Africa, especially from Ghana and Ivory Coast,” Dr Wetala explains.
Last year, about 17,000 tonnes of cocoa beans were exported by both the private and public players in the industry, which fetched a total revenue of $50m (Shs133bn), according to the researcher.
Currently, the focus of the research team is for farmers to engage more in replanting the crop in order to increase the acreage under cocoa.
“Cocoa is a shed-loving crop and we usually advise farmers to intercrop it with other trees to provide shed because a cool environment with little sun rays will determine its yields,” Wetala said.
Two years ago, the Corec team conducted a survey covering the Busoga region and Mukono District, where farmers are engaged in growing cocoa.
They established that farmers in these areas prefer grow the crop organically but the challenge is pest and disease infestation. Whereas, according to Wetala, farmers in Bundibugyo are making significant progress in cocoa farming because they use pesticides to check pests and diseases, says Wetala.
Cocoa farmers are usually faced with the challenge of insects biting the pods causing them to dry up, birds which suck the juice out of the pods, aphids, caterpillars and leaf defoliators, which attack the leaves, and a disease known as verticillium wilt, which attacks the roots causing the tree to wilt and eventually dry up.
Dr Wetala’s team usually advises farmers to follow good agronomy practices such as pruning the branches and leaves as well as providing a balanced shed for the cocoa trees to produce better yields. If followed, such agronomic practices can enable a single tree to produce over 20 pods.
New varieties from Ivory Coast have been introduced and are under evaluation at the institute. Once the results prove promising, they will be distributed to cocoa farmers possibly by mid this year.
Market for the product
The Bundibungyo-based branch manager of Esco Uganda, which exports cocoa, Mr Wilfred Aliganyira said since 1994, the company has been sensitising farmers in the district about the importance of engaging in cocoa growing.
This is because there are a number of private international companies that have showed interest in exporting cocoa grown in Uganda because of its good quality.
“What we basically do is sensitise them to maintain the cocoa trees and to get involved in multiplying the seedlings. This has enabled the production to increase from 7,000 tonnes per year to the current 17,000 tonnes,” he said. “If the sensitisation continues, more farmers will get involved because there is already a market for the product.”
Most of the exporters sell the cocoa to countries in the European Union, where it is used to make various products.