The Minority National Democratic (NDC) in Parliament has chastised the government over the deeply politicization of the cocoa sector, warning that the action poses a serious threat on the livelihood of cocoa farmers and food security in the country.
According to the Minority, the bad policies by the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government on mass cocoa spraying, sale of fertilizer and suspension of contract work on cocoa roads are not only destroying the cocoa sector, but has a serious repercussion on the balance of payment of the economy.
They added that, if measures are not taken to curtail the situation, farming cocoa in the country would be limited to only party members and those who could afford to buy fertilizer and spraying chemicals.
Minority Ranking member on Food and Agriculture in parliament, Hon Eric Opoku made these observation at a press conference at Bodi in the Western Region on Monday this week.
The press conference was to explain the minority side on the happening in the cocoa sector and to draw the farmers attention.
Some of the Minority Members of Parliament (MPs) who joint in the press briefing includes, Hon, Sampsson Ahi, MP for Bodi, Hon Emmanuel Armah Kofi Boah, MP for Ellembelle, Kwabena Mintah Akandoh, MP for Juaboso and Hon Mathias Ntow, MP for Aowin.
Others were, Hon Richard Acheampong, MP for Bia East, Hon Dr Augustine Tawiah, MP for Bia West, Hon Cassel Ato Forson, MP for Ajumako Enyan Essiam and
Hon Samuel Abdulai Janbayete, MP for Chereponi constituencies.
Speaking on wide range of issues in the cocoa sector, Mr Opoku said under the leadership of former President John Mahama, the NDC government recorded the highest cocoa production, making it the second in history after John Evans Atta Mill, nothing that, it was possible due to the numerous intervention rolled out.
He mentioned the free fertilizer cocoa farms, free supply of hybrid, early maturing and high yielding cocoa seedlings to cocoa farmers under the cocoa Rehabilitation Replanting programme, enhanced cocoa mass spraying exercises, construction of cocoa roads and incentive producer price of cocoa at 77.45% of net free-on-board price.
“Our dear farmers, we are happy to inform you that the pragmatic measures implemented by Mahama led Government yielded more than anticipated results in the 2016-2017 cocoa year.”
The cumulative effect has been the colossal increase in cocoa production from a target of 800,000 metric tonnes to over 966,400 metric tonnes in 2016/2017 cocoa season which is the second highest production level in the history of cocoa production after Prof. mills 1,000,000 Metric tonnes record in 2011,” the Minority stated.
He said, ” it must be emphasized that in consonance with thenormal practices, we collateralized 750,000 metric tonnes of cocoa for the 1.8 billion dollar syndicated loan obtained for cocoa purchase in 2016/2017 year. However, actual production in the year exceeded the collateralized figure by 216,400 metric tonnes and we must be interested in the utilization of the excess revenue to the NPP government.”
“Our dear farmers, if a tone of cocoa is sold at $1,900 today then the excess production of 210,000 metric tonnes has raked in close to $411,160,000 dollars cedi equivalent of GHC1,850 billion in the form of revenue to the NPP government. The vexed question is where is the money? And how is the money being utilized,” Mr Opoku told the cheated farmers at Bodi.
The Minority therefore accused the government of fixing a low cocoa producer price for the 2016/2017 crop year,describing it as ” day time robbery.”
CHEMICAL/FERTILIZER NOT FOR SALE
Touching on the distributing of fertilizer and mass spraying of cocoa farms, the Minority stated that, there have been discrimination as fertilizer and chemical mean for every farmers are been supply to only persons loyal to the NPP, while farmers perceived to be NDC are denied the opportunity.
The practices, the Minority said is not only affecting such disadvantage farmers, but the entire cocoa production in the country.
Mr Opoku noted that the distributing of fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals for cocoa farmers was given free under the NDC, but today, the government is selling same which is already been bought by government through cocoa money.
He lambasted the government for scrapping off the cocoa fertlisation programme and replaced it with the subsidised arrangement under which a bag of fertiliser, which was given to farmers for free, is now being sold at GH¢80 in spite of its embossment of “not for sale.”
“Surprisingly, the NPP government on assumption of office has replaced the free fertilization programme with a programme under which farmers pay (GHc80) for a bag of fertilizer. This is unacceptable, we cannot sit aloof for the government to cheat our cocoa farmers,” he stated.
The Minority Spokesperson on Agriculture said, under the free fertilization programme, the cocoa farmer was entitled to 7.5 bags of granular fertilizer per every hectare of cocoa farm and a farmer who has 100 hectares of cocoa farm was given 750 bags of fertilizer free of charge.
But today, “under President Akufo-Addo/Bawumia government, the same farmer is to pay (GHc60,000) for the same 750 bags of fertilizer. This has exposed the Ghanaian cocoa farmer to intolerable levels of penury. We are therefore urging the NPP government to be sensitive to the plight of the Ghanaian cocoa farmer by halting the sale of the fertilizer and revert to the NDC’s free fertilization programme for the 2016/2017 cocoa season.”
He added that, checks from cocoa growing districts indicated that a sizeable percentage of granular fertilisers were kept in the stores of the licensed buying companies (LBC) because the farmers could not afford.
“The decomposition of the fertilisers in the stores would be a colossal loss to the state and the wisdom behind such actions cannot be comprehended,” Mr Opoku revealed.
COCOA ROADS SUSPENSION
The Minority Spokesperson on Agriculture, said former President John Dramani Mahama rolled out a five-year cocoa road construction programme estimated at $750,000, with more than 230 roads selected from all the cocoa regions were awarded on contract for bituminous surfacing.
However, for political covert reasons, the NPP government in June this year, directed all contractors working on the projects to suspend work, with provision not made for cocoa roads in the Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) budget for 2017/2018
Mr Opoku who is MP for Asunafo South said , in spite of the huge amounts involved in the construction of cocoa roads, the contracts for the construction and maintenance of roads in cocoa producing areas were suspended, making farmers lose tonnes of cocoa on farms.
“This means that the cocoa roads which are deteriorating faster than anticipated due to the neglect of the NPP government is going to get worse making users, mostly farmers, wretchedly despondent and low-spirited to continue to labour for our dear nation,” he said
The former Brong Ahafo Regional Ministee argued that, Per Article 37:7 of the Constitution, the government was required to continue and execute programmes commenced by previous governments and not suspend them.
Some of the affected cocoa roads, he mentioned included, SefeiBoafo-Sankore, Sankore-Abuom-Nakitry, Sankore-Atekyem-Kokooso, No3, Atekyem-Asibirem-TanoDumase, Anyinasi-Nyamebekyere-Asomasi-Mumuni junction, Alatakrom-Sewum, Enchi-Kordjor and Samreboi-Amoaku-Mumuni roads.
The rest of the are Mumuni-Prestea, Nkrankwanta-Adabokrom, Adobokrom-Kwadwo-Arman, Amoaya-Kwasikrom-Dadieso-Enchi, Elluokrom,Oseikojokrom, Essem Dabiso, Adwoafua, Debiso-Akatiso, Debiso -Adobokrom, Ellukrom-Ntonsue, Ellikrom, Ahiabenso-Bodi, Juaboso, Juaboso town and Benkyem junction -Adwoafua roads.
COCOA STABILIZATION FUND
Mr Opoku also noted that it was the political zeal to ensure the hard working farmers do not suffer much when prices of cocoa drop internationally that former Mahama government established a Cocoa Stabilization Fund with annual contributions “as a risk mitigation mechanism against declines in international cocoa prices.”
The primary objective of the stabilization fund, he explained was to apply it to sustain the earnings of cocoa farmers and to cushion them, should the market price begin to decline.
With the forgoing in the sector, Mr Opoku said, the Minority and Ghanaians are asking for the utilisation of the fund because, the recent decline in the price of cocoa internationally, therefore, must trigger the use of the stabilization fund to put smiles on the faces of our farmers
While urging government to utilize the cocoa stabilization fund established by the previous NDC government, to cushion farmers instead of the insensitive policies, he also challenged government to make public the amount that has accumulated so far under the stabilization fund.
“We are therefore encouraging the CEO of COCOBOD to make it public how much has accumulated in the fund and its impact on the farmers in this critical period,” he added.
He also said the NPP had replaced a promising Cocoa fertilization programme the Mahama government introduced and is thus ripping off cocoa farmers.
Mr Opoku therefore urged the government to revert to the cocoa road projects, free distribution of fertiliser and other programmes initiated by the previous government.
Other MPs present also took a swipe of the NPP Government and accused the COCOBOD of treating cocoa farmers unfairly.
Chiefs, farmers and youth of Bodi and it environs attended the press conference.
Nana Kontihene Adu Fuachie, Acting Chief for Bodi traditional area said, the removal of free distribution of fertilizer is affecting their farming.
He therefore on behalf of the farmers pleaded with the minority to channel their concerns at parliament for the government to reverse the decision for farmers to get good harvest in the next season.
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/Felix Engsalige Nyaaba,Bodi/WR