A desperate attempt by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) to claim certain innovative interventions in the cocoa sector and to project President Akufo-Addo as not doing enough to better the lives of cocoa farmers has fallen flat.
It would be recalled that a recent press conference by the Minority in Parliament led by Eric Opoku, Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agriculture, pointed out a number of interventions it claimed the erstwhile Mahama’s administration introduced to improve the fortunes of the cocoa sector.
It also pointed out a number of failures of the President Akufo-Addo led New Patriotic Party (NPP) Government in the cocoa sector.
The July 25, 2019 press conference was necessitated by a recent challenge by President Akufo-Addo to the erstwhile Mahama administration to name one of its policies that increased cocoa production.
According to the Minority, President Akufo-Addo was either misinformed about his so-called record in the cocoa sector vis-à-vis that of former President Mahama and the NDC, or that he was simply being mischievous and disingenuous with the facts about Ghana’s cocoa sector.
The Minority listed free fertilization of cocoa farms, free distribution of Cocoa Hybrid Seedlings to cocoa farmers, the construction of Solar-powered Boreholes, schools, and roads in cocoa growing areas, among others.
It also mentioned the raising of 50 million hybrid cocoa seedlings during the 2014/2015 Cocoa Season as some of the interventions.
The above interventions, the Minority claimed, helped significantly to boost cocoa production during Mr. Mahama’s regime.
“First of all, the NDC under President Mahama introduced the free fertilization of cocoa farms policy in 2013/2014, and repeated same in 2015 and 2016 to boost cocoa production,” it said.
The Minority added that “this game-changing program was what culminated in Ghana achieving its second highest annual cocoa production of 969,000 metric tonnes for the 2016/2017 cocoa season under President Mahama as captured at paragraph 403 of the NPP’s own 2018 Budget statement.
“Compare this sterling record to the current situation under the insensitive and grossly underperforming Akufo-Addo regime, where annual cocoa production dropped to 904,000 in the 2017/2018 cocoa season as captured at paragraph 524 of the 2019 Budget statement,” according to the Minority.
On the issue of auditing ‘ghost’ cocoa roads under the Mahama’s administration, the Minority alleged “the Akufo-Addo government has succeeded in doing is to waste millions of the tax payer’s money on illegally procured audits not sanctioned by the Auditor General.”
According to the Minority, “we are aware that $10 million has been paid to one of such illegally procured private audit firms owned by a member of Akufo-Addo’s Council of State and at the right time, we shall make the chilling details available to the Ghanaian people.”
However, it has turned out that majority of the claims put forward by the NDC especially the volume of cocoa production during the party’s tenure are false.
According to COCOBOD, it was only Gh¢ 2 million used for the audit and not $10 million.
The cocoa fertilizer application project, dubbed Hi-Tech, for instance, was an initiative of Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in the late 1990s.
Specifically, one Dr. M. R. Appiah of blessed memory, a soil scientist at CRIG, is believed to be the brain behind this project contrary to claims by the Minority that it was introduced under the Mahama’s regime or by the NDC.
Accordingly, Cashpro, a defunct LBC which was associated with the NDC, introduced this on pilot basis to its farmers in 1999.
The former President Kuffour’s administration in 2003, after observing the benefits of the Mass Spraying exercise which was introduced in 2001, adopted the Hi-tech on pilot basis and upscaled it at the national level in 2006.
“It is therefore inaccurate for NDC to claim the Hi-Tech project as its baby,” a cocoa scientist who pleaded anonymity said.
“This project was implemented on subsidy basis from 2006 until 2014 when the Mahama government decided to distribute fertilizers for free, primarily to its members.”
It is common knowledge that the period 2014-2016 saw privileged farmers and non-farmers being supplied with quantities of fertilizers while greater majority of farmers did not receive a single bag of fertilizers, according to the scientist.
Upon assumption of office in 2017, it emerged that “not for sale” fertilizers were being smuggled out of the country, primarily to Ghana’s neighbouring countries and elsewhere, it is alleged.
It is further alleged that such fertilizers were being sold in the open market in countries such as Cameroon.
The Akufo-Addo’s administration decided to revert to the original policy of subsidizing fertilizer for interested farmers to procure their required quantities from the ‘open market’.
This policy is premised on the fact that funds used in procuring these fertilizers come from sales of cocoa and therefore it is prudent to ensure that the input is made available for all interested farmers, instead of distributing it for free at the benefit of just a few privileged once who were connected to ruling governments.
On claims that the fall in production would lead to importation of beans by local processing companies, records show that Ghana recorded its highest level of local cocoa processing under Akufo-Addo in 2017/18 when over 310,000 tonnes of cocoa was processed.
Up-to-date, data shows that so far, 179,948 tonnes of cocoa has been supplied to the local processors, and the season is still on-going.
Importation of bean for local processing is enshrined in COCOBOD’s policy over the years and is not a new development, a source revealed in response to the NDC’s wild claims.
“It is worth noting that local processors secured approval to import total of 15,000 tonnes in 2013, and 20,000 tonnes in 2015, all under President Mahama.”
According to sources, “the mismanagement of the sector in President Mahama’s era is seen in a situation where Ghana could not supply enough beans to meet its contractual obligations to both external and local buyers to the tune of 117,838 tonnes and 72,371 tonnes respectively in 2015/16 crop year.”
On the claims of free distribution of cocoa hybrid seedlings, it has turned out that since 2004, planting materials – seedlings and pod – have been provided to farmers for free.
The effective use of seedlings is under the rehabilitation programmes and that is what has been adopted now.