Some cocoa purchasing clerks operating in the Brong Ahafo region are robbing poor cocoa famers of their sweat in broad day light, by cleverly adjusting scales used in buying the cocoa beans.
The modus operandi of these clerks is to tighten up their purchasing scales, such that the cocoa beans would weigh less on their scales. Irate farmers who have expressed anger over the activities of these clerks are asking the government to intervene.
According to them, if the government wanted to help the cocoa sector to flourish, then it should assist the farmers to have their own weighing scaling machines to weigh their cocoa beans before the purchasing clerks come in with theirs.
They also expressed concerns over the differences in the amount of Kilos used by each of the numerous buying companies, saying “Some weigh the cocoa at 66Kilos, others weigh theirs at 65Kilos, whilst some weigh them at 64Kilos.”
The farmers are seeking explanation why the buying companies buy from them at such amount of kilos, and sell them to the government at 62.5kilos.
According to the farmers, “no shipping items weigh beyond 50kilos is allowed”, challenging The Chronicle to conduct its own investigation. They alleged that the largest Cocoa Purchaser is based at Tema, who buys a total of 4000 bags a year, when ironically Tema is not a cocoa growing town.
“How can the highest purchasing clerk be at Tema where cocoa is not grown?” The farmers alleged during the interview with The Chronicle that the government seemed unconcerned about the situation because it illegally makes 4kilos in every cocoa bag purchased, considering the scale Purchasing Clerks use and the standard amount of 50kilos per bag, shipped or exported.
When contacted, most of the Purchasing Clerks refused to comment, while the few who spoke denied the allegations by the farmers.
A Purchasing Clerk, working for a private buying company in the Asunafo district, however, told this reporter on condition of anonymity that the farmers were right and that the entire fraud starts from the top hierarchy who are aware, but turn to accuse the Purchasing Clerks of cheating.
He said all the scales have been adjusted from source. He revealed that before the opening of every Cocoa season, each purchasing Clerk, irrespective of the company he or she is working for, pays GH¢10 at the office, to be forwarded to the Ghana Standard Authority.
“What is that amount used for or what is its purpose?” He queried. According to him, all the buying companies comply with the payment, because before the District Officer (D.O) gives the money to be used for purchasing to the clerk, a cash amount of GH¢8 which is equivalent to 2Kilos is deducted, which is also recouped by the clerk from the poor farmer.
He explained that if a clerk is given a full amount of GH¢212 which is the price of a bag of Cocoa, then that clerks’ scale has been adjusted indirectly at 66Kilos, but if the GH¢8 has been deducted, then the scale of that clerk would be 64Kilos per bag.
The Produce Buying Company, he continued, also deduct 1Kilo at source, so their scale is at 65Kilos, while the private companies have their scales adjusted between 64 and 66 kilos depending on the amount deducted.
According to the Purchasing Clerk, the top hierarchy was aware, because they claim such deduction are used for a so-called administrative purposes. To him, the onus lied on the government to properly regulate the sector, and that the farmers should not only blame the Purchasing clerks, but the top officials as well.
Another Purchasing Clerk who tried to defend why they buy from the farmers at 64Kilos and sells to the government at 62.5, said after buying from the farmers, they do sampling and checks to remove all bad beans and while doing that, the beans would be reduced in weight, hence the differences.
This explanation was highly contested by a farmer at Yawsae, a farming community in the Sunyani Municipality.
According the farmer, the cocoa beans are critically examined by all clerks before purchasing is done and that such explanation for the extortion cannot be true.
He explained further that per the directive of the Cocoa Marketing Board and its other agencies, the minimum drying period for cocoa beans is two weeks, during which the farmer critically examine the beans to remove all bad ones.