The Minority in Parliament say the failure of government to increase cocoa price is unfair and amounts to stealing from the farmers.
At a press conference Monday, the Minority argued the foundation laid by the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) government was good enough for an increase from the ¢475 per bag to be expected.
They rejected the government's view that a drop in commodity price on the world market affected government's ability to increase the price to farmers.
"The price of cocoa on the international market has witnessed a dramatic decline to a ten year low from more than $3000 per tonne only 10 months ago to as low as $1900 in recent months. The situation has compelled other countries to reduce drastically their producer prices of cocoa,” the Agriculture minister Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto said.
Speaking ahead of the press conference, Sampson Ahi, an NDC MP from Bodi, a constituency in a cocoa-growing Western region said the former NDC government before exiting power in January 2017, left more than $400million in revenue from cocoa.
The MP said, the NPP government could use this revenue to boost the price following the drop on the world market.
He explained the NDC government went for a $1.8bn loan in October 2015 to improve cocoa fortunes after setting a 800,000 tonnes target for the 2015/2016 crop season.
He said 750,000 metric tonnes was collateralized to pay for the loan. In the end, the government exceeded its target after cocoa farmers brought in for sale, 960,000 metric tonnes.
In that sense, the excess 210,000 tonnes should translate into profit for the government after paying off the loan, he argued.
The Bodi MP wants to know what government did with the excess revenue. "How is government going to spend the additional revenue," he asked on Joy News.
The ¢475 per bag pegged in October 2016, he said, is simply "not enough" for the 2017 farming season.
Read full statement from Minority
MINORITY PRESS CONFERENCE ON HAPPENINGS IN THE COCOA SUB SECTOR UNDER THE NANA ADDO/ BAWUMIA GOVERNMENT HELD AT BODI, WESTERN REGION ON THE 23RD OCTOBER 2017
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we thank God for the opportunity to engage you today. Our decision to interact with cocoa farmers in the Western Region is informed by the fact that Western Region is the leading producer of cocoa in Ghana today. We thank you for showing up in your good numbers and hope we could have a very informative, educative and insightful discussions which will inure to the benefit of all Ghanaians.
Over the years, the cocoa sector has played a crucial role in the socio-economic development of our nation by contributing significantly to the gross domestic product (GPD), being the major and reliable source of foreign exchange earnings, employment generation and has been very supportive to the nations’ infrastructural development, among others. It is therefore important for us to monitor developments in the sector to ensure sustainable growth and prosperity for well-meaning Ghanaians.
COCOA PRODUCTION FOR 2016/17 SEASON
Our dear farmers, we are happy to inform you that the pragmatic measures implemented by the Mahama led Government yielded more than the anticipated results in the 2016/17 cocoa year. The government rolled out numerous interventions including;
The cumulative effect has been the colossal increase in cocoa production from a target of 800 Metric tonnes to over 966,400 Metric Tonnes in 2016/17 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.
We wish to register our displeasure and disappointment at the conspicuous attempts by the current NPP government to conceal information on this laudable and remarkable achievement in the cocoa sector to the general public. It must be emphasized that in consonance with the normal practice, we collateralized 750,000 metric tonnes of cocoa for the 1.8 billion dollar syndicated loan obtained for cocoa purchase in 2016/17 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 ton 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 (GHC 1.850 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?
Roads linking our cocoa growing communities have been in deplorable state for a long time making the transportation of farm produce and movement of farmers to the urban centres extremely difficult. The situation is aggravated during the raining season. It is against this background that the NDC under former President John DramaniMahama rolled out a five year Cocoa Road Construction Programme at a cost $750,000,000. Under this programme over 230 cocoa roads selected from all the cocoa regions in Ghana were awarded on contract to bituminous surfacing.
On assumption of offive, the NPP Government has directed all the contractors working on these important projects to suspend work.
This explains why works on several roads including the following have stalled:
Our dear farmers, it is sad to note that no provision was made for cocoa roads in the COCOABOARD budget for 2017/18. 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.
Government cannot pretend to beoblivious of Article 37:7 which states;
“As far as practicable, a government shall continue and execute projects and programmes commenced by the previous Governments”.
COCOA MASS SPRAYING
The cocoa mass spraying is bedeviled with a lot of challenges this year.
The effect is that farmers are plunged into incessant difficulties.
COCOA STABILIZATION FUND
Ladies and Gentlemen, you may recall that in the last press conference we made specific demands in respect of the Cocoa Stabilization Fund established in 2014 by the Mahama Government. Even though attempt was made to respond to the issues raised, specific questions were not addressed. We are still interested in knowing how much is accumulated in the Cocoa Stabilization Fund and its impact on the cocoa farmers in this critical period.
COCOA FERTILIZATION PROGRAMME
Ladies and Gentlemen, on 21st June 2017, the minority in Parliament held a press conference and drew the attention of the NPP Government to the fact that the Ghanaian Cocoa farmer had indirectly paid for the fertilizers procured for the 2016/17 season and therefore selling same to them amount to broad day light robbery, we further explained that in Ghana, cocoa farmers are paid in kind and in cash and by replacing the free fertilization with subsidized system the NPP would inflict untold hardships on the cocoa farmer.
The NPP government demonstrated its insensitivity to the plight of the ordinary cocoa farmer by ignoring our wise counsel and proceeded to replace the free fertilization programmed with subsidized arrangement under which a bag of fertilizer which was given to the farmer for free is now sells at GHC 80.00 in spite of its embossment of “strictly not for sale”.
Our gallant farmers, it is important to note that our checks from most of cocoa growing districts indicate that a sizeable percentage of granular fertilizers are still in the stores of the LBCs because cocoa farmers are unable to afford.
The decomposition of the fertilizers in the stores would be a colossal loss to the state and the wisdom behind such actions cannot be comprehended. We are therefore urging government to act fast by reverting to the NDC/Mahama’s free fertilization programme.
POOR GOVERNANCE PRACTISES RESULTING IN CONFUSION AT COCOA BOARD
We all know that Cocoa Marketing Company is a subsidiary of Ghana Cocoa Board but Cocoa Marketing Company has a board which functions according to the directives from Cocoa Board. The practice has been that the CEO of Cocoa Board chairs the board of the Cocoa Marketing Company so that whatever Cocoa Marketing Company does will be in consonance with the policies of Cocoa Board. Surprisingly under the Nana Addo/ Bawumia led government, the Chairman of the Cocoa Marketing Company has been appointed by the President outside The CEO of Cocoa Board is also appointed by the President and the Chairman of Cocoa Board is also appointed by the President so how will you define the relationship between the CEO of COCOABOARD who is the overall administrative head of the Cocoa Board structure with the Chairman of the Cocoa Marketing Company who is also an appointee of the President. Does he also report directly to the President? The President by his action has sown a seed of discord in Cocoa Board, this is why Cocoa Board is rocked with confusion everywhere. Dear farmers does this also explain why this year alone the CMC budget allocation has sky rocketed from 74.8 million in 2016 to 104 million in 2017 representing 38% increase?
ABUSE OF POWER LEADING TO WASTEFUL EXPENDITURE BY THE NANA ADDO GOVERNMENT
Ladies and Gentlemen, soon after the swearing in of the President, 20 members of the senior management staff of Cocoa Board were asked to proceed on leave. While on leave, they are paid all salaries and allowances due them at the end of every month. Some retirees who had been paid pensions from COCOBOD after their retirement have been re-engaged to fill those vacancies. This means that at the end of every month those on leave and those re-engaged are all paid salaries from the sweat and labour of you the cocoa farmer. This has ballooned the headquarters expenditure from GHC363 million to 538 million representing about 48% increase. Is this the prudent way of managing the resources of the cocoa farmer?
The Minority has raised critical issues that go to the core of the survival of the cocoa sector and the general well-being of our cocoa farmers. Government must, as a matter of urgency look at the issues and address them in the interest of our dear nation. We wish to pledge our unwavering commitment to champion the well-being of our cocoa farmers.
Our gallant and revered farmers, Ladies and gentlemen of the press, we thank you for your attention and will now take your questions.