The Cocoa politics
So “cocoa politics” took the media space over the past week and typical of such discussions, the argument centred around the “little matter” of who or which government has paid the highest producer price of cocoa to farmers.
Now, don’t get us wrong. An increase of more than 63 per cent of the producer price from GH¢12,800 in 2022/2023 season to GH¢20,943 per ton for the 2023/2024 crop season is significant.
But it is equally right to also indicate that the current bite rate of inflation at over 40 per cent will definitely eat away a chunk of the new price to be paid to the country’s gallant cocoa farmers.
The focus for Graphic Business is that the debate is quite narrow minded, given the fact that there are much bigger challenges confronting the cocoa sector which require urgent attention.
For instance, how illegal mining also known as “Galamsey” has contributed to a loss of about 150,000 metric tons of cocoa beans exports for this current crop season as reported by COCOBOD is a major source of worry.
A much bigger picture, though, is how can we take advantage of the cocoa sector value chain, which is estimated at over $400 billion annually?
Another will be how can we revive the once vibrant Cocoa Processing Company which exports cocoa liquor, butter and cake (semi-finished products) and which at its peak production could generate almost $100 million of revenue annually?
If we could just tap into this global business of semi-finished cocoa products with a target of about 10 per cent in the next 10 years, amounting to about $ 40 billion annually, the cocoa exports revenue between $3 billion and $5 billion to the state annually from raw cocoa beans exports will pale into the shadows.
Graphic Business is convinced that a deliberate action can play a major part in the big business of cocoa value chain and address the lingering issues in the cocoa sector. Issues such as producer price increases, pension schemes for farmers, fertiliser distribution, fumigation of pollen shoot infestations, cutting and replantation of aged cocoa farms and all the major policies associated with cocoa farming sector can all be addressed through this intervention. Eventually, these would trickle down to the cocoa farmer in Agona Duakwa.
The country, additionally, will also have the benefit of shoring up our foreign currency reserves, which will eventually help to wean us off the yearly syndicated loans of about $3 billion from international banks and probably help steer the economy off our excessive borrowing from the international market at huge cost to the economy.
We should understand that the western country’s dependence on our raw materials are deliberate and intentional. It is a huge business and for as long as they can keep buying raw materials at a determined price on their own terms, they would never allow us to go off track.
Evidence abound that some countries in Europe and Asia have already started experimenting with cocoa planting even in their unfavourable weather.
They have designed news and public relations strategies attacking our farming methods by claiming that cocoa farmers engage in child slavery without due regard to our own cultural farming practices.
All these are aimed at squeezing the life out of the raw material exporters. The announcement of the differential wage of about $400 by Ghana and Cote D’ Ivories for instance has not gone down well with the international cocoa players.
So while we spend all our energies debating which government did what, our cocoa farms are being destroyed with reckless abandon, our water bodies are gone, and all we have done is to blame everybody but ourselves for failing this country.
Graphic Business hastens to add that if we are sincere about the sector which has sustained the economy over the years, our “fight” should rather be on transforming the sector for good and not who has done better with the piece-meal interventions that have, but limited us to periphery of raw export of raw cocoa beans over the past 200 years.
The competition is not about jostling among ourselves but rather with the multi-billion-dollar international confectionery players to stake a claim in the value chain business of the global cocoa industry. That should be our collective fight.