The Minority in Parliament has called on President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to focus on cleaning what it describes as the mess his government has created in the cocoa sector.
They contended that the first-ever highest yield of one million tonnes of cocoa in cocoa production was realised under the Mills/Mahama National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration in the 2010/2011 cocoa season, while the second highest production of 969,000 tonnes took place under the watch of President John Dramani Mahama in the 2016/2017 cocoa season.
At a press conference in Parliament House yesterday, the Ranking Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agriculture, Mr Eric Opoku, said the facts of the NDC’s performance in the cocoa sector could be verified at paragraph 403 of the NPP’s 2018 Budget Statement presented to Parliament.
He said cocoa farmers today were far worse off as exemplified in the steady decline of production.
The press conference was necessitated by a recent challenge thrown by President Akufo-Addo to the erstwhile Mahama administration to name one policy of theirs that increased cocoa production during their tenure in office.
Mr Opoku said instead of admitting that the current administration had failed cocoa farmers in Ghana, and that the government had completely mismanaged Ghana’s cocoa sector, President Akufo-Addo continued to display lack of sympathy for the plight of the poor cocoa farmer.
Mr Opoku, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for Asunafo South, said the President asked for one policy but in fairness to the NDC’s superior record in government, they would give more than one policy that were introduced by the Mahama Administration which boosted cocoa production in the country.
Free fertiliser for cocoa farms
He said first of all, the NDC under President Mahama introduced the free fertilisation of cocoa farms policy in the 2013/2014 crop season and repeated it the following season to boost cocoa production and his game-changing programme was what culminated in Ghana achieving its second highest annual cocoa production of 969,000 tonnes for the 2016/2017 cocoa season as captured at paragraph 403 of the NPP’s 2018 Budget statement.
“Also, annual cocoa production has further dwindled to an estimated volume of 770,000 tonnes for the 2018/2019 cocoa season, representing a 21 per cent decline in annual cocoa production, since the 2016/2017 cocoa season”.
The Asunafo South MP said the main reason for that huge decline in cocoa production was because the Akufo-Addo government, upon assuming office in 2017, cancelled the distribution of free fertiliser to cocoa farmers initiated by the Mahama administration and instead, “started selling free (“Not for sale fertilisers”) to farmers at GH¢80 per bag.”
“Ghana is surely feeling the pinch of the inhumane and counter-productive measures of President Akufo-Addo in the cocoa sector,” he stated.
Another intervention that was introduced by President Mahama to boost cocoa production in the medium term was the free distribution of cocoa hybrid seedlings to cocoa farmers and under this initiative, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) expanded the seedlings nursery sites from 28 to 330 from 2014 to 2016, Mr Opoku said.
In all, about 4,000 labourers were engaged during the various cocoa seasons at the nursery sites.
“It has to be emphasised that during the 2014/2015 cocoa season, 50 million hybrid cocoa seedlings were raised and distributed free of charge to farmers. During the 2015/2016 season, 60 million hybrid cocoa seedlings were raised and distributed free of charge to farmers,” Mr Opoku stated.
The Ranking Member said in the 2016/2017 cocoa season, another 60 million hybrid cocoa seedlings were raised for free distribution to farmers putting the 1,200 seedlings to one hectare of cocoa farm.
He asserted that other interventions that the Mahama administration undertook to motivate cocoa farmers and improve upon their livelihoods included the construction of solar-powered boreholes, schools and roads in cocoa-growing areas.
“Also, the Mahama administration continued the cocoa mass spraying programme initiated by the Kufuor administration. All these were tailored to help make life better for the Ghanaian cocoa farmer and boost cocoa production,” he said.