General News Sat, 30 Nov 2002

Gov't to Seize Cocoa Farms

...Owned by Smugglers

AS PART of the desperate measures taken to stem cocoa smuggling in the country, the government has decided to confiscate farms from owners who indulge in the act. This came to light when Mr. Samuel Addai Wusu of the quality control unit of Cocobod and Nana Mensah Abrampah 1, chief of Kwameseikrom, addressed an anti-cocoa smuggling rally organized by the Cocoa Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association (CCSFA) at Kwamesei-krom in the Jaman District of the Brong Ahafo Region.

Mr. Addai Wusu, the Regional Quality Control Manager of BA, told the farmers that Cocobod would deal with any arrested cocoa smugglers as though they were armed robbers. The manager urged the security personnel, operating at the border posts, to check any truck loaded with cocoa, and arrest those with no waybills as they smuggle the cocoa outside. He also told the farmers that all purchasing clerks have been issued identifying cards (ID). Any clerk without ID is a smuggler and should be treated as such. Those with no waybills should be arrested as they smuggle the cocoa outside.

Mr. Wusu said that all licensed buying companies have been authorized to put a seal on all the cocoa they purchase, in the districts in which they operate, before evacuating them to their destinations. He therefore instructed that if the security personnel or any other person sees cocoa purchased without a seal, those persons carrying it should be arrested. The manager advised the farmers to form vigilante groups to assist the security agencies in combatting the smuggling.

On his part, the chief of Kwamesei-krom, announced that he and his elders had agreed to collaborate in the confiscation of cocoa farms belonging to persons arrested in the smuggling of cocoa in the area. Nana Abrampah said such a farm would be handed over to Cocobod to harvest for five years, before returning it to the original owner.

A similar measure, according to Chronicle sources, is in force at Kwahu, a village near Enchi in the Western Region, where farmers indefinitely lose their farms to the chiefs if found involved in cocoa smuggling.

The national chief farmer, Nana Erhurma Kpanyili VI, who is also the chief of the Awiebo traditional area in Eastern Nzemah, advised farmers to desist from smuggling cocoa because the government needs money to repay a loan acquired for the purchase of the produce. The chief farmer reminded other farmers that the government would pay ?8000 as bonus on each bag of cocoa purchased from them this year.

In a matter of one year, Ghana has lost over 60,000 tons of dried cocoa beans, through smuggling across its western and eastern borders, making the government, which badly needs foreign exchange, poorer by millions of dollars. To arrest the age old crime, which is now on a disturbing ascendancy, the government has posted soldiers at the country's frontiers, instituted bonuses and increased the producer price three times in two years. As smuggling of the beans continue unabated, opposition parliamentary members have blamed it on the Government, saying the increases are just "peanuts", sending the current figure nowhere near the producer prices in neighboring Togo and Cote d'Ivoire.

Source: Ghanaian Chronicle