Farmers in cocoa growing areas, are being forced with policemen at gun-point to sell their cocoa trees and farms in place of a booming rubber plantation business, a group has revealed to The Herald.
The situation is said to be so alarming that, sooner rather than later, the country’s regular revenue from the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) would be cut off.
The group, Concerned Farmers Association of Ghana, mentioned in particular, how farmers in the Eastern and Western regions, were being intimidated with the help of the Police to forgo their cocoa farms for meager compensation from the rubber plantation companies.
The President of the Association, Nana Oboadie Opambour Boateng Bonsu II, said an urgent plea to the Board Chairman of the COCOBOD, Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, to do something about the dire situation, did not yield any fruit; the group was rather rebuffed.
He demanded that, Mr. Owusu-Agyeman, is sacked from his position, and suggested that both Agric Minister, Dr. Owusu Akoto Afriyie and COCOBOD boss, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, are also clueless about events in the cocoa industry.
Nana Boateng Bonsu II, disclosed that, while some of the farmers out of fear obliged and wrote their names for the meager compensation, other farmers flatly refused the offer, however, but their trees were destroyed nonetheless.
“What happened at Asekasu was under duress, because I was told by my farmers that, the Police, were there with guns on them to write their names, else they will destroy them and will not give them any money.
So, they were forced to write their names and then they were compensated. Others too rejected the compensation and said they want their cocoa farms, but yet still, they invaded there and destroyed them. People are going round telling farmers that they are now going to buy fertilizer, government is going to reduce cocoa prices”.
Nana Boateng Bonsu II, who has cocoa farms both in the Eastern and Western Regions, claims in other parts of the region and elsewhere where the cash crop is grown, these farmers are agreeing to sell their farms, because they appear to have lost interest in the cocoa farming business.
Nana Boateng Bonsu II, paints an alarming picture, saying in the event that pragmatic measures and laws are not quickly put in place to save the situation, Ghana will, in few years have no cocoa beans to sell internationally.
Without mincing words, he advised President Nana Akufo-Addo, to remove from office the Board Chairman of COCOBOD, Hackman Owusu-Agyeman, saying his ineptness is causing the collapse of the cocoa sector.
The group argued that, the cocoa sector is being grind to a halt with speed, however, the Board Chair and the COCOBOD, which it described “very sick” appear helpless.
He revealed, on two occasions, he tried drawing the attention of the Board Chairman to the issue, but he was disappointed with the response he got from the Board Chairman.
He said, Mr. Owusu-Agyeman, disappointedly justified why the farmers were selling their cocoa trees by saying that the action of the farmers was as a result of economic factors.
“As I speak to you, there is a place at Bogoso called Ayensukrom Number 2, there is a company called Breakstone Mining Company, they have bought the cocoa farms and the oil palm plantations there and they have paid compensation to the people which the money was peanuts”.
Arguing further he said, the Board Chair, needs to be shown the exit for a more capable hands, because he has outlived his usefulness.
“COCOBOD very is sick…..Hackman Owusu Agyeman should be sacked. He told us that a farmer can choose to destroy his cocoa and plant rubber and that it’s an economic problem. How can a whole chairman make such a statement? It’s unfortunate we don’t need him so now we are going to cut all the cocoa trees in Ghana and where will Hackman be? I personally told him, I called him on phone and told him and he told me we were doing politics, we were doing cheap propaganda”.
He continued “He feels too big and when you feel too big, sit in your house. You can be big when you are with your family, but not the famers because without us, you are nobody”, adding “go to the cocoa farms and see how these people sweat to bring the cocoa to benefit us and compare it to the car the CEO is driving, the salary the CEO is taking and watch the cocoa farmer who is in the bush”.
Ghana and Cote d’ Ivoire, produce 60 percent of the world’s cocoa beans, however, these two nations have little to say when it comes to prices on the international market. The two countries two weeks ago, signed an agreement to push for a greater say in the years ahead.
But Nana Boateng Bonsu II, said that agreement would remain a mirage, because the Chair of the COCOBOD and Food and Agriculture Minister, are just throwing dust into the eyes of President Akufo-Addo and Ghanaians.
“Is a fallacy, is a lie because you can go and sign agreement with Cote d’ Ivory but you will come back to meet the farmers cutting down their cocoa trees. We are saying that the Minister of Agriculture and the chair of the COCOBOD are throwing dust into the eyes of the President and Ghanaians” he said angrily.
Cocoa trees are being destroyed, yet they are telling the President, nothing of the sort is happening. They are lying to the President; they are not telling the President the truth. If 1,500 acres of cocoa plantation, have been destroyed won’t it affect cocoa production in this country? Yet still, the president still has confidence in them that they are going to meet the target”, he argued.