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Ghana’s cocoa exports dropped sharply in the first quarter of 2024 – GSS report

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Cocoa exports saw a significant decline in the first quarter of 2024, dampening the growth of the country’s trade surplus, according to new data.

Although the surplus is expanding nominally, this growth is primarily driven by rising prices rather than increased export volumes or economic growth.

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Data from the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) indicate that the export value of cocoa products in Q1 2024 dropped to US$592.2 million, a sharp fall from the average of US$825.8 million during the same period last year and the previous two opening quarters.

This represents the lowest quarterly cocoa export value for Ghana, the second-largest producer, since 2021.

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Cocoa Board (Cocobod) announced on March 25 that the 2023/24 cocoa harvest in Ghana would be only 422,500 to 425,000 metric tonnes (MT), half the country’s initial forecast and a 22-year low, due to extreme weather and disease affecting the cocoa crop.

Concerns about the West African mid-crop, the smaller of the two annual harvests, are also causing tightness in global cocoa supplies. Projections for Ghana’s mid-crop, starting in July, have been reduced to 25,000 MT from an earlier estimate of 150,000 MT.

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Despite the slump in cocoa exports, Ghana posted a Q1 2024 trade surplus of GH¢11.5 billion (US$1.35 billion), more than double the GH¢4.5 billion surplus a year earlier.

However, GSS officials warned that the positive trade figures mask an underlying lack of real trade growth when price increases are taken into account.

“In real terms, our trade value in Q1 2024 was just GH¢47billion after discounting price effects – less than half the nominal GH¢107.6billion figure,” Professor Samuel Kobina Annim, Government Statistician, said at the data release.

“About GH¢59billion of our nominal trade value was from price changes alone,” he added.

The diverging real and nominal trade trajectories reflect a new import and export price index launched by GSS.

It shows general export prices surged 20.4 percent between Q1 2023 and Q1 2024, while import prices jumped 11.5 percent.

Prices for key commodities like gold, cocoa and fuel have uptrended in the past year amid supply shocks and currency fluctuations.

After adjusting for those price swings, real trade volumes increased just 0.6 times from Q1 2021 to Q1 2024 – paling in comparison to the 2.4-fold nominal spike, data showed.

Trade officials acknowledged the trend of price-driven, not output-driven, trade growth is concerning.

“If our exports are mainly driven by price changes, it means in real terms our trade volumes aren’t really growing – and that’s not what we want. We want real output and diversification improving our trade, not just prices,” Prof. Annim remarked.

Overall nominal 2023 trade surplus stood at GH¢5.3billion, rebounding from a GH¢4.8billion deficit in 2022 when mineral fuels and oils were a top import.

But again, real trade output barely budged – notching a 0.3 percent year-over-year decline even as nominal trade grew 30.2 percent.

Anchoring the Q1 2024 real trade report is the sharp 35 percent year-over-year cocoa export drop, extending a downtrend that saw quarterly cocoa shipments fall from around US$895million in the past three years’ opening periods to just US$585million this year.

Cocoa’s declining share of exports, dipping from over 20 percent to 12.1 percent year-on-year, comes as gold consolidates its dominance – its export contribution surging from 40 percent to 50 percent of the total. Officials pledged to “minimise the vulnerabilities” leading to cocoa’s deterioration to safeguard a key income source.

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