Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The Cocoa Industry And Ghana's Economy

The International Black Pod Project

Poku Adaa

The Black Pod is the most destructive of all diseases that affect the cocoa tree. It is caused by the action of a type of fungus called the PHYTOPHTORA which renders the cocoa pod unusable after two or three weeks of attack. On a world scale, it has been estimated that about 10% of annual world crop is lost due to the incidence of the Black Pod. While in the Far East less losses are encountered, nearly 60-70 hectares of cocoa crop in West Africa is lost annually to the Black Pod.

The conditions for growth and spread of the disease are wet humid conditions and as a result, losses vary from season to season and from year to year.

The effect of the disease on quality of cocoa beans produced is substantial. Where the beans are not discarded, manufacturers face fermentation shortfalls as infected beans contain relatively less sugar, but more fat acid levels higher than internationally accepted standards. Put simply, the Black does affect the price of cocoa.

The recommended method of control is to spray with a fungicide and it has been the traditional method for many many years.

However scientific research aimed at effective control of the Black Pod has been going on for a long time at the major Research Conferences held in Abidjan in 1965 and in Salvador, and Brazil in 1967.

The initiative to contribute their quota to the search for a "cure" for the Black pod came from the chocolate manufacturing industry in the consum- ing countries. Thus in 1967, the Cocoa Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance (CCCA) of the U.K. initiated an inde- pendent scheme to conduct research in the Black Pod. With a grant-in-aid from the American Cocoa Research Institute and field and research facili- ties by the Cocoa Research Institute of Nigeria at their Gambari Experimental Station, the International Office of Cocoa and Chocolate, operating under the management of the CCCA began the Research Project in Nigeria.

The object of the Research Scheme was summed up, in part, as follows:-"There is a variety of possible sources and routes by which the fungus responsible for black pod disease reaches the pods. It is the aim of the Project to establish this.... and also using a large tract of cocoa farms to evolve a variety of control procedures including fungicides, insecticides, pro- tective barriers, tree surgery, etc. as research tools to block the identified routes of infection..."

The Research Project started in 1973 and ended in 1979. The Final Report of the International Black Pod Research Team was published by the CCCA in April 1981.

It is an invaluable document con- taining the research findings of nearly six years of continuing research in the fields. The publication is available from the CCA offices in Green Street, London W1 states: "It is NOT the purpose of this project to make recommendations for improved control BUT to provide data on which recommendations could be based by Extension Workers who have detailed knowledge of farmers' requirements, for after all, knowledge of the development of the black pod disease within a plantation is necessary for rational and economic control of the disease."

It is hoped that cocoa research organisations within the member countries of the Cocoa Producers Alliance will take advantage of the findings of this International Black Pod Research project and coupled with existing extensive knowledge of the Black Pod to improve upon their production capabilities. Ghana's Cocoa Research Institute which has over the past thirty or forty years courageously serviced the local industry will collaborate with and ultimately benefit from international projects like these.

talking drums 1984-12-10 Cocoa New Strategy needed