Government has on Monday, November 19 2018, commenced engagements with cocoa farmers across the country seeking to strengthen interaction with the Cocoa Sector. The engagements began in Koforidua, Tafo in the Eastern Region and will continue in other Cocoa growing districts in Brong-Ahafo, Ashanti, Western and Central Regions of Ghana. Following this, we at the Centre for Agro Liberty (CAL) have observed that government is about trying to show concern that it cares, but is government really going to tell the framers the truth about why their cocoa beans are so important, how it is sold and how gainful its export is? This, CAL thinks, should not be the aim to score political points on score sheets for votes but once its contributions to GDP is significant, it must be done in the interest of the farmers and of the economy.
Again, we do not know if farmer groups or associations were given notice of the purpose of their visits and what kind of discussions and what form would it take so they could prepare to document their grievances and recommendations to enhance productions on a win-win base between government and the farmers.
We know most of the discussions would be centered around fertilizer subsidies and distributions as well as diseases. These are not new thing to the farmers. It's indispensable for innovative discussions to secure the sector when most are moving away from cocoa to rubber. We are therefore very surprised that the government under the leadership of Nana Akuffo-Addo, after all the lofty promises it made to the farmers when in opposition, would now take a u-turn and be charging farmers for fertilizers marked “not for sale”.
However, this is the first time such a high delegation from government is meeting farmers across the country. Is this going to be the first and the last and if not, how often is government going to engage these farmers? Any roadmap of engagement? That notwithstanding, CAL in engaging most of these farmer associations in the Eastern, Ashanti and the Brong Ahafo Regions, they were not aware of any government's engagement with farmers across the country. Those they first engaged in the Eastern Region said called them in a meeting all of a sudden and they new virtually nothing about it.
Speaking to Asunafo North Co-operative Cocoa Farmers and Marketing Union in the Asunafo North Municipality of Brong Ahafo Region, which constitutes a membership of over 7,000 in about 69 communities, as well as leading cocoa production in the Region for two consecutive times, they said they haven't heard of any engagement of farmers across the country with the government. Government has, however, secured an amount of US$ 1.3 billion to produce and purchase cocoa for the 2018/19 season, we think because government wants value for money, there are the needs to engage the farmers as to how to bring out quality products in order to avoid losses.
The visit is in the interest of the government, as to how it can export more tonnes of cocoa than the previously did, so it can use that as an achievement in the sector. This comparative analysis is what the government is seeking. Regardless of this, the government also wants to assure farmers of their support. Total Cocoa production under the previous administration 778,000 metric tonnes, which was a shortfall of 72 tonnes of the targeted 850 tonnes.
According to the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Ghana 's cocoa production is expected to hit two million (2m) metric tonnes by 2019. He said the current total national capacity of 968,000 metric tons of cocoa was woefully inadequate to generate the needed revenue to support national development, thus they are resolved to work tirelessly to put pragmatic measures and other innovative programs and policies in place to achieve that. Meanwhile, let us not forget that Farmers are not expanding their cocoa farms like before. Others are cutting it down to make way for other purposes. This means that the uncountable tonnes of cocoa the government needs for export may not be met.
You know, cocoa farms are shrinking while rubber is getting the expansion. This is because CAL has recently received several complaints from cocoa farmers across cocoa growing regions of Ghana about the unusual delays in payments for their produce. Farmers who sell their produce to the Produce Buying Company (PBC) and other local License Buying Companies (LBCs) are the most affected. We further observed that COCOBOD has either refused, neglected or failed as it is obligated to allocate the local LBCs portions of their annual syndicated loan for the 2018/2019 crop season, thus the Local LBCs are being compelled to solicit for loans from banks at considerably higher interest rates to buy produce for this season. Again, in cases where the LBCs have taken loans, purchased and delivered cocoa beans to COCOBOD, COCOBOD has failed to pay these local LBCs. These developments explain the unusual delays in paying cocoa farmers this crop season, which signals a negative effect on the cocoa production in the country.
So this tells clearly that, there is a shift commodity cultivation of cash crops for export and Ghana may lose it position on the world as one of the leading cocoa producers and exports.