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The Ghana Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association (COCOSHE) have taken notice of a recently published result of a survey on Ghana’s cocoa sector conducted by Imani Africa, and the subsequent news stories attributed to the findings in the published document.

The report on the survey, sponsored by the government of the Netherlands, paints an overall bleak picture about the state of Ghana’s cocoa industry and its future outlook. It gravely downplays the importance of COCOSHE and our work as an organisation which fights for the interests of cocoa farmers in Ghana. It suggests that farmer confidence in the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is dismally low.

Also, with little regard for the ambitious plans and policies being pursued by the present management of COCOBOD, Imani Africa drew the conclusion that the historical performance of COCOBOD, which they (Imani Africa) supposedly investigated as part of their study, leaves doubts about the ability of COCOBOD to independently improve its operations and by extension the cocoa sector.

COCOSHE, like all other stakeholders in the cocoa sector, recognises that there are numerous challenges which are faced by our members, the farmers. Indeed, the need to help resolve these challenges is the reason for COCOSHE’s existence and it is at the heart of all our activities. Yet, we find the ideas being perpetuated by Imani Africa, that Ghana’s cocoa sector is one full of hopeless inefficiencies and resentment among farmers, as not being the true reflection of the feelings and thought of cocoa farmers.

Ghana’s cocoa sector is comparable to none, in terms of its socio-economic importance to our dear country. It is in a league of its own among the heavily state-managed industries. It is a national success story which must be celebrated, while earnest steps are taken to resolve the challenges therein.

Indeed, we farmers also recognise that COCOBOD itself faces some difficulties and limitations, as well, in its operations. In determining the producer price for instance, we farmers know and understand that the price of cocoa on the international market can be a blessing one season and a curse the next; and that consistently in recent years, it has been the latter.

We continue to seek improvements in the delivery of products and intervention to our farming communities, such as, the subsidised agrochemicals and implements; the mass spraying exercise; the pruning and hand pollination exercises, among others.

But in improving all of these, COCOBOD, which has been the pillar behind the industry, will be heavily relied upon by farmers to find solutions to these challenges. We have all been witnesses to the devastation caused by the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) when until recent years COCOBOD stayed aside and allowed farmers to deal with the disease themselves. We must be careful not to undermine confidence in such an institution.

In probing the cocoa sector, our local institutions must not be enticed by foreign entities and donors, particularly, those who have never shown in their history, the slightest bit of interest in the welfare of cocoa farmers and who clearly have self-serving interests in pushing an agenda for the weakening of the government’s protection of the cocoa sector. The deregulation and liberalization agenda of these foreign bodies will only worsen the plight of
farmers. We must not willingly or inadvertently be pushing their agenda.

Our local “think tanks” will do the cocoa sector a lot of good by committing resources to probing the impact of the recently introduced Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEPs), that is, pruning and hand pollination – which were not mentioned even once in the entire report – as well as the cocoa rehabilitation programme, all of which are aimed at improving the cocoa farming business and the lives of farmers by boosting their earnings.

It is important to also, recognise that, beyond the execution of its primary task of regulating the cocoa industry, COCOBOD has undertaken development projects in the areas of education, healthcare delivery, potable water, road constructions, among other amenities in cocoa communities.

Interestingly, the claims in the Imani report bears resemblance to others which have been reported in the foreign media – sometimes copied by local ones – to sully the cocoa sector soon after Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire joined forces in a successfully executed push to institute a new trading mechanism, which comes with a Living Income Differential (LID) to boost the earnings of farmers.

Foreign donors will not finance investigations into why their companies earn over 90% of the revenue in the international cocoa sector but will suddenly fund a study into Ghana's cocoa sector, as soon as, the country makes a move which they find threatening to the bottom line of their companies.

To conclude, we call upon all member of COCOSHE, Ghana’s entire cocoa-farmer population, other stakeholders in the industry and the general public, first to disregard the skewed and sensationalised news stories based on the report and secondly, to recognise the report for what it is; the latest in a number of recent attempts by foreign donors to curtail the ambitions of the national cocoa regulator.

We speak of building strong institutions. COCOBOD is one such institution and we all must support it to work better for us all. This is important to us as cocoa farmers and should be to all well-meaning Ghanaians.

Alhaji Alhassan Bukari
National President
Ghana Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association.
Source: Peacefmonline.com

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