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Business News of Thursday, 3 November 2016

Source: classfmonline.com

Cocoa sector 'disastrous' under Mahama - NPP

The management of the "all-important" cocoa sector has been "nothing short of a disaster" under the Mahama administration, Kwadaso Member of Parliament (MP), Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has said at a press conference on Thursday, November 3.

The opposition New Patriotic Party's spokesperson on agriculture said the country attained a "historic peak production of just over one million metric tonnes of cocoa in the crop year 2010/2011," an achievement, he said, was "a direct result of policies and projects such as mass spraying and high tech programmes initiated and implemented by the NPP administration from [the] 2001/2002 [crop season]."

"With this twin projects, cocoa production more than doubled in just two years from 341,000 metric tonnes in 2001/2002 to 737,000 metric tonnes by 2003/4 and then to the one million metric tonnes … in 2010/11.

"Since attainment of the one million metric tonnes, there has been a consistent decline in the output of cocoa in this country to, first below 900,000 metric tonnes … and then at less than 750,000 metric tonnes annual production in 2012/14 and the current 2015/16 [figures] are still the lowest in the past decade.

"So you hit a peak of one million and instead of going up, production is coming down steadily in the last five years. This steady and consistent decline in cocoa production since 2010/2011 is a reflection of both misguided policies and poor implementation of projects persued by the NDC administration," Dr Afriyie Akoto said.

According to him, cocoa farmers all over the country have been inundating him with calls for the past 10 days with complaints that "their cocoa has not been paid for and yet we in parliament in July approved a loan of $2 billion for the purchase of cocoa from cocoa farmers and as we speak to you, there is a crisis in payment including PBC's share in which government has a share of about 40%. They are being denied working capital to pay these farmers for their produce."

He said the issues that have conspired against the cocoa sector under Mr Mahama's administration include shortage of chemical inputs to farmers, the use of new brands of chemicals, rapid spread of swollen shoot, low producer prices paid to farmers (GHS475) per bag of cocoa, politicisation of the mass cocoa spraying exercise, smuggling of cocoa and inputs to neighbouring Ivory Coast as well as the destruction of cocoa farms by illegal small scale miners (galamseyers) particularly in the Western and Ashanti regions.