The Minority in Parliament has described as unacceptable government’s decision not to increase the producer price of cocoa for the 2017 crop season.
The Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Casiel Ato Forson said reasons given by government for the non-payment including a drop in the world price for cocoa is unfounded.
Addressing a news conference in Parliament Wednesday, he said provisions have been made to the Stabilization Fund to take care of the shortfall.
He claims in terms of the seed amount paid into the Fund, in 2014 and 2015, $150 million each was paid totaling $300 million.
“As to how much has accrued on the investment amount, I cannot confirm…so our argument is that if there is a shortfall in total revenue, one would expect that $300 million without the interest is enough cushion that can give a buffer to the ordinary cocoa farmer.
“We think that it is very unfair by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to come out and say they are not going to increase cocoa prices because world cocoa prices are coming down,” he said.
Cocoa prices are in a meltdown, hitting a four-year low due to an abundant supply and weakening demand as growing health consciousness grips consumers. Benchmark cocoa futures on the Intercontinental Exchange in New York hit $2,052 per metric ton on February 3, the lowest level since March 2013, in an extended year-long decline after 2015’s weather-related rally. They closed at $2,052 per ton on Friday.
In the U.S., which is the world largest chocolate market, retail sales of chocolate candy have seen little growth in the last two years.
Sales by volume increased by just 0.6 percent in 2016 while sales by value were up 0.7 percent to $13.7 billion in the year up to December 25, according to data from a Chicago-based market research firm.
Regarding COCOBOD’s GHC10 billion debt, the Member of Parliament for Ajumako Enyan Essiam said it is wrong for anyone to equate the Board’s commitment to a debt.
“It may be that COCOBOD has signed a contract up to GHC10 billion, but until they have performed the contract it cannot be termed as a debt. It is a contingent liability and not an immediate one,” he said.
The minority also criticized government’s policy on the supply of fertilizer to farmers.
The Ranking Member on the Food and Agric Committee, Eric Opoku said the current arrangement would leave farmers impoverished and result in low yields.
“Surprisingly, the New Patriotic Party (NPP) on assumption of office has replaced the free fertiliser program with a program under which farmer pay GHC80 for a bag of fertiliser.”
“This is unacceptable as we cannot sit aloof for the government to cheat our cocoa farmers,” he said.
Under the free fertilisation programme, each cocoa farmer was entitled to 7.5 bags of granular fertiliser or 2 litres of liquid fertiliser per every hectare of a cocoa farm.