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General News Thu, 11 Sep 2008

Akufo-Addo promises pension scheme for cocoa farmers

Accra, Sept. 11, GNA - The presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Congress (NPP), Nana Akufo-Addo has pledged to establish a cocoa farmer pension scheme, the first of its kind in Ghana, to put an end to poverty and insecurity amongst retired cocoa farmers, and accord them a secure and comfortable future even after they stop producing cocoa.

A statement issued in Accra by the NPP campaign said he made this known during his ongoing tour of cocoa farming areas in the Ashanti Region, only two days before the opening of the 2008/09 crop season in which cocoa farmers are to get a 36 per cent increase from GH¢75 per bag to a record high of GH¢102 per bag.

"Nana Akufo-Addo's government will utilise the high global price of cocoa and the dramatic increase in the productivity and profitability of the sector over the past eight years to ensure that today's prosperity is used to provide a brighter future for Ghana's millions of cocoa farmers and their dependents," the statement said.

It said this innovative pension scheme was one of a number of inventive policies that Nana Akufo-Addo would pursue as president to provide greater security, prosperity and opportunities for informal workers by shifting them into the formal sector.

It said: "There will be a sustained effort to bring into our retirement schemes those in the informal sector, to give a boost to those schemes and to secure the future of our informal workers." The NPP said this pioneering programme would therefore act as a pilot, and once established the next NPP government will seek to expand it to other agricultural sectors.

It said the proposed pension scheme was further testament to the NPP's commitment to Ghana's cocoa farmers and the cocoa farming sector, in recognition of their national importance and their contribution to national development.

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Since 2000 the NPP has succeeded in increasing productivity and production, expanding the cocoa industry and adding value through processing, and improving cocoa farmers' lives with better incomes, housing and transportation.

"Nana Akufo-Addo is determined to build on the achievements of the NPP government in order to realise the full potential of the cocoa industry as a means to reduce poverty, create wealth and boost our economy, placing the cocoa industry at the forefront of our development agenda."

The statement said the pension scheme was part of the NPP's comprehensive policy package on cocoa, which would see the expansion of the disease control programme, progress towards an ambitious but achievable goal of 50 per cent domestic processing of cocoa, increased credit and investment for expansion, utilisation of cocoa by-products, and better roads and houses for farmers.

Within the first eight years of the NPP, there have been record levels of production with Ghana today producing almost double what it did in 2000, largely the result of highly successful disease control under the Cocoa Diseases and Pests Control programme (CODAPEC), launched in 2001.

The government has also secured unprecedented levels of finance and credit for expansion, the latest being the US$1 billion for the 2008/2009 cocoa harvest, fostered domestic processing through fiscal incentives, invested in research and development and vigorously embarked on the tarring of roads in remote cocoa growing areas to improve market access as well as farmers' quality of lives. Farmers have furthermore benefitted from the highest ever producer prices - over five times higher than in 2000, together with regular bonuses acting both as reward and incentive. 11 Sept. 08

Source: GNA
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