… Stop ‘Cheating’ Cocoa Farmers
The Minority in Parliament has again exposed the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government on its thieving policies, this time round, inflicted on cocoa farmers in the country.
Revealing what they described as “highway robbery” of cocoa farmers in the country, the Minority cautioned the government not to touch a pesewa belonging to the nation’s hardworking cocoa farmers.
According to the Minority, government declaration that it would not increase producer price for cocoa farmers for the 2017/2018 is not only disingenuous, but an illegal decision taken, and cautioned against such move.
The chief executive officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Mr. Joseph Boahen-Aidoo, on June 8, this year, announced on Joy 99.7 FM that cocoa farmers would not enjoy any increase in producer price and bonus for the 2017/18 season.
According to the chief executive officer of COCOBOD, the move has been influenced by the significant drop in the price of cocoa beans on the international market and therefore cocoa farmers would not enjoy any price increase or bonus.
The bean over past two years has reduced from about $3,000 to around $1,900 a tonne, which has resulted in the country losing almost $1 billion in revenue during that period.
Farmers currently enjoy GHc7,600 for a tonne of cocoa beans and GHc475 for every kilo bag of beans, after it was increased by 11 percent last season.
However, the Minority spokesperson on Food and Agriculture, Hon. Eric Opoku, who addressed a press conference yesterday, said the decision of the CEO and, for that matter, government not to increase the producer price is irresponsible and an act of robbery of the cocoa farmers.
“We wish to state that the Chief Executive Officer of COCBOD is not clothed with the mandate to determine the producer price of Cocoa Farmers. It is the duty of the Producer Price Review Committee to determine producer price of cocoa taking into consideration several factors, including the economic conditions prevailing in the country in order not to inflict untold hardship on our farmers,” the Minority argued.
Mr. Opoku, who is MP for Asunafo South, said, in October, 2014, the NDC government under President John Dramani Mahama established the Cocoa Stabilization Fund with annual contributions from the net free-on-board (FOB) price as a risk-mitigation mechanism against declines in the international cocoa prices.
He noted that, the sole aim of the Stabilization Fund was to apply it to sustain the earnings of cocoa farmers and to cushion them, should the market price begin to decline.
In that regard, the Minority said, the recent decline in the price of cocoa internationally had therefore triggered the need and time to use the Stabilization Fund to put smiles on the faces of cocoa farmers, but the government rather made dramatic move to cheat the farmers on what is legally due them by announcing that there would be no increment on producer price and bonus.
The Minority argued further that, though they could not tell what is currently accumulated in the Stabilization Fund, the NDC government left behind a huge sum of money, not less than $300 million, and therefore challenged the CEO of COCOBOD to publish for the public, “how much is accumulated in the Fund and its impact on the farmers in this critical period.”
The Ranking Member on the Finance Committee, Casiel Ato Forson, contributing, contended that the reasons for the non-payment, including a drop in the world price for cocoa, are unfounded, maintaining that provisions have been made to the Stabilization Fund to take care of the shortfall.
He stated that, in terms of the seed amount paid into the Fund, in 2014 and 2015, $150 million each was paid, totalling $300 million, but as to how much has accrued on the investment amount, he could not confirm.
Hon Ato Forson explained that, in normal circumstance, 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.
On the issue of fertiliser now being sold to cocoa farmers in the name of subsidy, the Minority said fertilisers, which were purchased during the Mahama administration, are meant for free distribution to farmers and he called on government to stop the sale of such inputs.
“The NDC Government under the leadership of President John Dramani Mahama introduced the Cocoa Fertilization Programme, among other things, to increase Cocoa Production in Ghana. Accordingly, the Producer Price Review Committee, before the determination of the producer price of cocoa, made provision for the purchase of 2.2million bags of granular fertilizer and 1.6million litres of liquid fertilizer to fertilise over 1million hectares of cocoa farms free of charge to the farmer in the 2016/17 cocoa season.”
“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,” Mr. Opoku, the Minority spokesperson of Food and Agriculture stated.
In the considered opinion of the Minority, selling an already purchased farm input to farmers under subsidy amounts to daylight robbery and demanded an immediate halt to the sale of cocoa fertilisers by the Akufo-Addo-led government to farmers.
“We want to emphasise that cocoa farmers have indirectly, through the producer price determination formula, used for the 2016/17 cocoa season, paid for the fertiliser. Selling the same fertiliser to the same farmer is broad day robbery,” he charged.
“We are, therefore, urging the NPP government to be sensitive to the plight of the Ghanaian cocoa farmer by halting the sale of the fertiliser and revert to the NDC’s free fertilisation programme for the 2016/17 cocoa season.” Mr. Opoku said.
The Minority also dismissed the government claims that the NDC government left behind a huge debt of GHc10 billion, while the free fertilisers were also only distributed to NDC party cocoa farmers and faithful, and that the measures taken by the COCOBOD were meant to offset the debt.
Mr. Ato Forson said the reason given by government regarding COCOBOD’s GHc10billion, is wrong “for one cannot 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 explained.
The Minority vowed to do everything humanly and legally possible to ensure that what is due for the Ghanaian cocoa farmer are paid to them, stating, “this is unacceptable, we cannot sit aloof for the government to cheat our cocoa farmers.”
Source: therepublicnewsonline.com/ Felix Engsalige Nyaaba