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Accra, March 11, GNA - Stakeholders in the cocoa industry are unhappy about continuous misinterpretation, most often by the western media, of few cases of children helping their parents on family cocoa farms, to mean the worst form of child labour.
Briefing the Parliamentary Select Committee on Employment, Social Welfare and State Enterprises, the Chief Executive of Cocobod, Isaac Osei, reassured that there were enough measures in place to check any such unacceptable practice on the farms.
He said it had been a tradition to pass on cocoa farming, which had become serious business, on to younger people, who constituted the succeeding generation in the family, stressing, that did not constitute child labour as defined by the International Labour Organisation. "We are of the view that we have the responsibility to pass it on to the next generation by teaching them the trade. Of course, very mindful of their (youngmen's) basic rights, particularly the need for them to have good education," Mr Osei said.
He said Cocobod had established a special desk that had been running a sensitisation campaign to encourage cocoa farmers to enrol their kids in school, citing the introduction of school feeding programme and capitation grant, as well as the Board's scholarship scheme as incentives.
During the interaction, some of the MPs, who hailed from cocoa growing areas supported Mr Osei's assertion with stories of how they helped their relatives in the cocoa farm in the past, saying their work never affected their education or stifled their future potential. "I get angry when I hear those misrepresentations, especially by the western media, referring to the help we give to our parents in the cocoa farm, which is the family business, as child labour," one of the MPs, who holds a second degree, told the meeting.
The Committee also held discussions with the Cocobod management on how to sustain increased production and attract investment to expand the industry, which is the second highest export earnerfor the nation. Mr Osei reiterated Cocobod's commitment to produce one million tonnes of cocoa by 2010 through enhanced fertilisation, expanded disease and pest control and the adoption of high yielding seeds. He briefed the Committee on the recent 26 percent raise in producer price of cocoa, saying it was to halt smuggling of the beans to neighbouring countries, following price increases in the world market. He spoke about government's plans to locally process up to 40 percent of the total cocoa produced, saying two major factories being put up by American agri-business companies were expected to come on stream by year, in addition to the various expansion projects being undertaken by existing processing companies. The meeting also discussed plans to rejuvenate coffee and shea production to become high income earners.
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