For years cocoa has been the backbone of the economy of Ghana.
It is not just the chief agricultural export and the main cash crop but also after Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana is the second largest cocoa exporter in the world.
Conservative figures suggest that cocoa alone contributes about 25 per cent to the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) within an agricultural sector that is said to contribute about 45 per cent to GDP. If a quarter of the country’s GDP is from cocoa, then really nothing should be left to chance in ensuring that the cocoa industry is sustained to give the country the needed foreign exchange for its development.
The Daily Graphic notes that the most important agent in the cocoa production chain is the farmer, without whose efforts the cocoa industry would not have developed to its current enviable level globally. Therefore, anything that will affect farmers in their efforts to produce the crop should never be countenanced.
Governments, over the years, have not been oblivious to this but have introduced various policies, such as increasing the use of fertiliser, hand pollination and improved market access and regulations to provide a ready market to ensure the continuous viability of the sector.
But information that there are delays in the payment of cocoa beans purchased from farmers presents a problem not only for the farmers but also the entire economy.
Currently, there is blame game between the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the Centre for Socioeconomic Studies (CSS) as to who is responsible for this.
While the CSS is levelling accusations against COCOBOD over the delay in payment for the beans, COCOBOD has denied the allegation.
The Daily Graphic recalls that a couple of months ago the COCOBOD announced that it had secured US$1.3 billion from a consortium of 21 banks to finance cocoa production and purchases in the 2018/19 cocoa season. In addition to the US$1.3 billion, COCOBOD also said it had paid GHc1.4 billion to licensed buying companies (LBCs) for cocoa beans that had been supplied this season.
We are, therefore, baffled over where the money is lodged currently.
We think both the government and the LBCs should come clean and tell Ghanaians the real situation on the ground. The citizenry will be interested to know who is telling the truth and who is telling lies. The government should immediately go into this issue and find out what is happening, since whether the money has been given to the LBCs or not is easily verifiable.
We strongly declare that we cannot gamble with an important sector of the economy as the cocoa industry. We should also never kill the hen that lays the golden egg. Let the two entities in this issue be guided by the important place cocoa occupies in the economy and ensure that we do not do anything that will demotivate the farmer from producing more.
Already, the country is battling with the issue of ageing farmers and how to replace them. If this situation is not checked, it will sow a seed of demotivation to the youth who would want to take to cocoa farming.
It also has the potential to derail the effort of the government to increase yields and encourage smuggling. Already, some farmers are contemplating selling their beans in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire.
The Daily Graphic calls on both COCOBOD and the LBCs to reconcile their statements and come clean on the allegations and counter-allegations and make the money available to the farmers.