Pension scheme for cocoa farmers apt

BY: Daily Graphic

Ghana hit a jackpot in cocoa production last year when it harvested 1.4 million tonnes of the beans in the 2020/21 cocoa season.

Last season’s output is now the record in the country’s more than 100-year history of cocoa production.

It is also the second time in a decade that output has crossed the one million tonne mark, after averaging 700,000 tonnes since the 2010/11 cocoa season.

As we celebrate the crop farmers, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), the government and all stakeholders in the cocoa production value chain for the feat achieved, it is critical to ensure that adequate measures are put in place to sustain the production momentum towards moving us to the two million-tonne space.

Beyond fetching the country more revenue through foreign exchange earnings, increased cocoa production greatly enhances growth in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the economy, stimulates industrial development through increased processing of the beans domestically and also addresses the spiraling unemployment figures facing the country.

At the heart of any effort to raise production is the well-being of the farmer. While initiatives, such as the production enhancement programmes (PEPs) by COCOBOD, are critical to sustain the production momentum, they can only be effective when farmers are properly motivated to continue to cultivate cocoa.

This is why the Daily Graphic finds it timeous that COCOBOD is collaborating with the relevant stakeholders to roll out a pension scheme for cocoa farmers nationwide.

The scheme will take effect this month to enable registered cocoa farmers in any part of the country to set aside a portion of their income for investment towards retirement, ill health and incapacitation.

It requires farmers to contribute a minimum of five per cent of their cocoa produce and a maximum of 15 per cent into a special fund to be managed by a board of trustees appointed by COCOBOD and the government.

Per the arrangement, COCOBOD will then contribute one per cent of the farmer's produce on behalf of the beneficiary for the total amount to be managed by a dedicated fund manager.

A board of trustees is being inaugurated today in Accra to oversee the implementation of the scheme.

It is further understood that a pilot phase of the project is already underway in New Edubiase in the Ashanti Region, where about 2,800 farmers have been enlisted and their contributions being taken.

A requirement under the COCOBOD Law, 1984 (PNDC Law 81), the roll-out of the cocoa farmers’ pension scheme is long overdue, given the need to secure the future of farmers, similar to what happens with employees in the formal sector of the economy.

The spectacle of aged cocoa farmers who, in their prime, laboured to sustain the golden cocoa sector, struggling with financial difficulties over the years is embarrassing and speaks of a nation not willing to reward its heroes.

The pension scheme is, therefore, laudable, as it will help secure the future of these hardworking farmers in their old age and in the event of incapacitation.

The Daily Graphic, therefore, appeals to all and sundry to contribute their quota to make this a success. Farmers must endeavour to register under the cocoa management system (CMS) to be issued cocoa cards, which they will need to be enrolled onto the scheme.

COCOBOD should also strengthen its collaboration with the National Pensions Regulatory Authority to increase awareness, ensure integrity of the scheme and make it profitable for the well-being of farmers.

The board of trustees of the cocoa farmers’ pension scheme must also know that they carry the sacred responsibility of securing the future of a group of people whose toils have sustained a sector that contributes more than 20 per cent to Ghana’s GDP.

For us at the Daily Graphic, we will continue to play our watchdog and development agent’s role by closely monitoring the implementation process to point out flaws and commend whenever necessary to help achieve the desired results.

After all, it is only when we ensure the integrity of the scheme and make it profitable for the well-being of farmers that we can, by extension, sustain the production momentum towards moving the country into the two million-tonne space.