LONDON, 14 February 2013--The ICCO is to lead a new initiative to tackle cocoa pests and diseases in West Africa, in partnership with the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), the European Cocoa Association (ECA), the world’s two leading chocolate manufacturers, Mars and Mondelez International, and other companies expected to get involved.

The project, which will be launched in April, aims to tackle the cocoa pests and diseases that are the main challenges to sustainable cocoa economy. Together, they account for more than 40% of global crop losses in cocoa production, and result in reduced income for cocoa farmers. The “Integrated Management of Cocoa Pests and Pathogens in Africa” project is a US$3.2 million initiative that will address this issue in Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria and Togo, the source of 70% (about 2.8 million tonnes) of global cocoa production.

With the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) coordinating activities on the ground, the project aims to gather forces and expertise in this region, building on past and existing initiatives in these countries, with the active support of the cocoa and chocolate industry, in order to improve the productivity on cocoa farms by reducing losses to indigenous cocoa pests and diseases. In addition, the project will strengthen in-country and regional capacity for improved pest surveillance for prevention of spread, early detection, eradication and continued management of existing and invasive pests and pathogens.

Among the major indigenous cocoa pests and diseases to be targeted by the project are those that cause significant crop losses in Africa: Mirids; Sting bugs; Stem borers; Black pod and Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV). Also to be addressed is the recent emergence of parasitic plants such as mistletoes and epiphytes, which also threaten West African cocoa production.

Particular attention will be given to CSSV, as new outbreaks in Côte d'Ivoire are casting doubt over the future of production in a country that supplies almost 40% of the world’s cocoa. The viral disease is one of the most intractable and destructive to strike the cocoa industry in West Africa, and it has similar effects to witches' broom disease, which cut cocoa production in Brazil by over 50% in the 1990s.

The initiative will be launched with a workshop bringing together research institutions and the industry, which is scheduled to be held in Accra, Ghana in April.

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