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Business News of Saturday, 12 September 2015

Source: B&FT

Pay farmers the right price for cocoa

Cocoa farmers Cocoa farmers

Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the ranking member on Food and Agriculture in Parliament, has urged government to change its policy toward cocoa farmers by doubling the amount paid to farmers in order to boost cocoa production for the next crop season.

“Government should be able to double the price of cocoa and be able to pay farmers as much as GH¢700 a bag.”

According to Dr. Akoto, currently government pays a farmer in the region of GH¢345a bag; but he reckons this can be increase to GH¢700 per bag of 64kg.

Production of the country’s main export commodity may dip to below 500,000 metric tonnes from the current 900,000 metric tonnes if the interventions put in place are not critically appraised, he pointed out.

He explained that since attainment of the record one million metric tonnes in the 2011 crop season, there has been a consistent decline in output to figures below 900,000 metric tonnes in three consecutive seasons.

“Government should be able to free the market and pay farmers the right price to compete on the international market. Low prices means less profit; farmers who used to do 20 bags are now doing 12 to 9 bags,” he said.

Presently, “The weather is not good and there are no chemicals to spray on their farms; this will further adversely affect production.

“At less than 700,000 metric tonnes, production in the current 2014/2015 crop season is one of the lowest over the last decade. This steady and consistent decline in cocoa production since 2010/2011 is a reflection of both misguided policies and poor implementation of projects pursued by government.”

He also stated that failed promises of government to provide cocoa farmers with incentives -- like housing, a pension and feeder roads to cocoa-growing communities, and the mass destruction of cocoa trees by illegal and small-scale miners (galamsey) in major cocoa-producing regions, in particular Western and Ashanti Regions -- are contributing to the decline of cocoa production.

Buyers and sellers have expressed concern about the country’s crop prospects for the upcoming crop year, which begins in October, after this year's crop came in dramatically lower than Ghana Cocoa Board had originally predicted.

Poor weather conditions and the late application of fertiliser reduced the harvest by 22% to 696,000 metric tonnes of beans, according to the International Cocoa Organisation.

However, the ICC says it remains positive that Ghana’s cocoa can rebound, despite the slump, in the next crop season.

They cite the move by Cocobod to revive the country’s output, which topped one million tonnes in 2011.

The organisation notes that Cocobod has “intensified its strategy to sustain and significantly increase cocoa production in the country through a variety of initiatives”, the ICCO said.