Let’s sustain cocoa sector

Let’s sustain cocoa sector

Cocoa, revered as the lifeblood of Ghana's economy, has been a cornerstone of the nation's prosperity since the 19th century. From 1911 to 1976, Ghana reigned as the world's foremost cocoa producer, contributing a substantial 30-40 per cent of the global output.

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By the 1920s, Ghana commanded over half of the world's cocoa production, solidifying its status as a powerhouse in the industry. The significance of cocoa to Ghana cannot be overstated.

It served as the backbone for the country's development, funding essential infrastructure such as roads, health care and education. While Ghana no longer holds the top spot in cocoa production globally, its partnership with Cote d'Ivoire still accounts for over 60 per cent of the world's cocoa output.

Cocoa contributes about 3.5 per cent to the country’s gross domestic product and employs approximately 17 per cent of the working population. It supports the livelihoods of others in the commerce, service and industrial sectors of the economy, employing about almost one million farmers directly and benefiting many households.

It also accounts for about 30 per cent of the total export earnings and it is the only commodity for which the country has 100 per cent retention of foreign exchange. And the CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, aptly likened the cocoa sector to the "oxygen" of the nation's economy.

He emphasised that the inflow of cocoa syndicated funds breathed life into Ghana's financial health, bolstering the strength of the cedi. The Daily Graphic resonates with Mr Aidoo's sentiment and recognises the pivotal role that cocoa plays in sustaining Ghana's economy. The cocoa sector has consistently engaged experts and professionals to ensure its continued robustness.

In a recent panel discussion on the theme: "Will Cocoa be part of Ghana's future?", Mr Aidoo highlighted how cocoa had evolved from an economic mainstay to a fundamental pillar of Ghana's prosperity.

The Daily Graphic urges COCOBOD to incentivise farmers to safeguard their lands against illegal miners seeking quick gains. COCOBOD shoulders the responsibility of nurturing cocoa farms from planting to harvest, culminating in international sales.

The board's dedication is commendable, and we align with Mr Aidoo's call to view the cocoa sector as the nation's economic lifeline. This urgent appeal arises in the aftermath of the severe impact of illegal mining, commonly known as "galamsey," on cocoa plantations and water sources in Ghana's cocoa-growing regions.

Reports of farmers leasing their cocoa farms to galamsey operators are deeply troubling, casting a shadow over the future of the cocoa sector. This trend raises serious concerns about the sustainability and integrity of cocoa production in the country.

Furthermore, the illicit smuggling of cocoa to neighbouring countries for higher profits than what local farmers receive is a pressing issue that demands immediate attention.

Addressing this challenge is crucial so that Ghana continues to reap the full benefits of its cocoa industry. The detrimental effects of galamsey on cocoa farms and the environment cannot be overstated. Not only does it jeopardise the livelihoods of cocoa farmers but it also poses a significant threat to the long-term viability of cocoa cultivation in Ghana.

In the light of these critical issues, it is imperative for stakeholders, including government agencies and cocoa industry players, to take decisive action to combat illegal mining and smuggling.

Implementing robust measures to safeguard cocoa farms and prevent unauthorised activities is essential for preserving the integrity of Ghana's cocoa sector. Additionally, fostering a supportive environment for cocoa farmers, including fair compensation and access to resources, is crucial for deterring illicit activities and ensuring the sustainability of cocoa production in the country.

The preservation of Ghana's rich cocoa legacy hinges on addressing these challenges effectively and upholding the ethical and legal standards that underpin the cocoa industry. It is incumbent upon all relevant parties to work collaboratively to protect the future of Ghana's cocoa sector and secure its continued prosperity.

The Daily Graphic urges vigilance against threats to this vital industry and calls for a concerted effort to preserve Ghana's cocoa legacy for future generations.

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