Cocoa farmers defend Opuni – Report

Business News of Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Source: theheraldghana.com

2017-07-25

Ghana Police56Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, former CEO of COCOBOD

Attempt by a Board Member of the Cocoa Marketing Board (CMB) to label former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBO), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, as corrupt was fiercely resisted by some farmers in the Eastern Region.

The Board Member, Nana Obeng Akrofi, who tried to paint the ex-CEO black before a crowd last week Thursday, was heavily heckled and booed away by cocoa farmers during a programme.

According to report by Kasapa FM, while delivering a speech at the 1st Anniversary of Saviour Cocoa Farmers Association at Akyem Osiem, Nana Obeng Akrofi, alleged among others that, Dr. Opuni had looted COCOBOD, reason the New Patriotic Party (NPP) administration was finding things difficult at the sector.

The Board Member continued that Dr. Opuni while serving as CEO, distributed the government free fertilizers programme to his political cronies reason the Akufo-Addo government has resorted to selling the free fertilizer to farmers who otherwise were receiving it free from the Mahama government.

He is reported to have said it was for that reason the Board was broke, leading to the government decision to sell fertilizers to them.

Nana Obeng Akrofi, said due to Dr. Opuni’s unwarranted withdrawal of money from the coffers of CMB account, COCOBOD was broke and so the farmers needed to bear with the government.

“The world price has been reduced by 1/3rd. Recently, Ivory Coast officials came here to impress upon Ghana government to reduce the Cocoa price because they have reduced producer price in Ivory Coast, but the government just took over power so it is very difficult to reduce the price. Someone may ask where is the cocoa stabilization fund which was set aside when we came Opuni had embezzled all the fund.

He added: “Honestly, there is nothing in that fund. When he realized that his government has lost power, he rushed to sign a cheque to withdraw $400 Million from Cocoa Marketing Board account, so there is nothing in the coffers so Cocoa farmers must bear with us.

On the free fertilizer issues, someone will ask why it was free but now being sold to farmers, the fact of the matter is that, Opuni gave out the free fertilizers to his cronies.”

But the farmers, who had gathered at the programme wouldn’t have any other accusation by the board member and began heckling him, until he was stopped from continuing his speech.

Nana Obeng Akrofi, who is also the Eastern Regional President of Cocoa and Cashew nuts farmers Association, was thus embarrassed by the farmers.

According to the organizers of Saviour Cocoa Farmers Association, the association was apolitical, therefore, did not want the programme to turn political.

Dr. Opuni, has been targeted by the NPP administration, since it assumed office in January.

Even though, he vacated his office after his party lost the December 7 elections, a letter to dismiss him, was harshly written and delivered by the now Agriculture Minister, Osei Akoto Afriyie, at the head office in Accra, where he met his absence.

Dr. Opuni, who was one of the people to be dismissed by the government early January, had handed over before his letter was delivered and leaked to mainstream and social media by the Agric Minister.

He has since been accused variously by members of the government and the NPP, but they are yet to take any action.

The government since assuming office, has either cancelled or suspended policies and programmes, started by the previous government, to enhance and improve cocoa production.

A programme to reconstruct roads in the cocoa growing areas, has also been suspended by the Joseph Boahen Aidoo-led COCOBOD, citing challenges with the award of contracts.

The free fertilizer programme, has been canceled and the products which have “not to be sold” written on it, are being sold by the government.

The government, has also announced due to challenges facing the prices of cocoa in the world market, prices of the commodity won’t be increased, neither will they have the usual bonus paid to them annually.

The farmers say the current development, is going to bring untold hardship to them because, aside they not having increases and bonuses from government, they will have to cough out unbudgeted money, to purchase fertilizer which was not the case in the past.

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