The Minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) in Parliament has reacted to the new producer price of cocoa announced by the government last week, saying the new price of GH¢475 per bag is a gross injustice to the suffering cocoa farmers.
In a statement signed by the minority spokesperson on Cocoa Affairs, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, the minority said farmers should have been paid at least GH¢600 per bag of cocoa owing to the prevailing economic conditions and the appreciable rise in the price of cocoa on the world market.
The minority said cocoa farmers have been shortchanged under the Mahama-led government, claiming that the government refused to increase cocoa price in the 2011/2012 cocoa season, 2012/2013 cocoa season and the 2013/2014 cocoa season while bonuses amounting to over GH¢100 within the period that cocoa price remained unchanged were also not paid to cocoa farmers.
“Because of the substantial decline in the real producer prices and incomes of cocoa farmers over the four years from 2011 to 2015, the minority caucus in parliament in August, 2014 recommended that the new producer price for the 2014/2015 crop season should be fixed at GH¢479 per bag but the government insensitively fixed the producer price at just GH¢345 for the 2014/2015 crop season,” Dr Afriyie Akoto, in the press statement, stressed that the NDC government should have taken advantage of the colossal savings made during the period from 2011 to 2015 when low producer prices of cocoa were paid to farmers to reward cocoa farmers with a ”handsome’ producer price and address the ill treatment of poor cocoa farmers.
According to the Minority, the new price of GH¢475 will only ensure that poverty levels of cocoa farmers are entrenched.
The plight of cocoa farmers has become even more pathetic because of recurring shortages in the supply of chemicals and inputs, the statement said.
The minority disclosed that cocoa farmers continue to complain about inadequate supply of chemicals and inputs by the government, yet the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) claims it has spent over GH¢838 million on the importation and distribution of fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and other chemicals to cocoa farmers.
“This money alone for the purchase of chemicals by COCOBOD is almost equivalent to the total budget allocation to the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development for the 2016 financial year,” the minority said.
The minority explained that in spite of such huge expenditure by COCOBOD on chemicals, many cocoa farmers in the Sefwi, Ahafo, Volta and other cocoa producing areas keep complaining of inadequate supply of chemicals by government for their farming activities.
“There are also reports of massive smuggling of cocoa chemicals across our borders to Togo, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Niger and Benin with the ‘free inputs’ policy of the NDC government also helping to fuel the smuggling,” the minority said.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr