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Ghana to use biotechnology for increasing cotton yield

The government of Ghana has expressed its commitment towards boosting cotton production in the country

Ghana environment, science and technology minister, Sherry Ayittey explained that cotton produced through modern biotechnology was strategic to increasing the production and value chain development by cutting down production costs associated with use of pesticides and weed management.

Ayittey was speaking at a two-day BT cotton workshop, held in Accra, to improve the competitiveness of the cotton sector in Ghana.

"It has been recognised that the application of conventional pesticides and herbicides also has detrimental effects on the health of farmers, while the pesticides are hazardous to the environment. These hazards are reduced when transgenic cotton is cultivated," she said.

According to Ayittey, statistics have shown that most growing cotton countries in West Africa like Cote d'Ivoire, Mali and Benin have been experiencing irregular drops in cotton production.

Ghana's cotton production had dropped drastically after the 90s, from 45,000 tonnes to 20,000 tonnes per year. The country's production accounts for only one per cent of the total production in West Africa.

According to Ghana trade and industry deputy Minister Daniel S Annan, Bacillus Thuringiensis (BT), a common soil borne bacterium, if applied to the production of the commodity would help increase yield and go a long way in creating jobs and reducing poverty, especially in the three northern regions.

As part of the government strategy, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organisation) has been invited to assist the revival of the cotton industry. A technical assistance programme is being developed in partnership with UNIDO, International Fund for Agriculture (IFA) and the World Bank.

"The UNIDO Technical Assistance Programme emphasises ensuring the quality of cotton produced in line with international standards, and the conversion of cotton seed into by-products such as vegetable oil, and cotton seed meal for animal feed," Sherry Ayittey said.

The programme would rehabilitate the cotton classing and grading facility and also build the national capacity to produce high quality cotton. It would also build pilot processing centres for cotton seed oil processing and other by-products from seed cotton.