By Christopher Arko, GNA
Accra, June 24 GNA - The Majority Caucus in Parliament has said claims by the Minority NDC Caucus attributed to the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, that prices of cocoa would not be increased due to the fall in world market price of the commodity was not true.
According to them, the Producer Price Review Committee was the only body mandated by law to set the price of cocoa, and that was what the Chief Executive reiterated.
Mr Kwame Asafu-Adjaye, Chairperson on Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs was speaking at a press conference organised by the Majority NPP in reaction to the Minority’s conference on Monday 18, 2017 in Accra.
The Minority on Monday organised a press conference and accused Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, Chief Executive of COCOBOD among other things that the Chief Executive cocoa was usurping the mandate of the Producer Price Review Committee when he was not clothed with that power and also how much has been accumulated to the Cocoa Stabilization Fund.
Mr Asafu Adjaye also refuted claims by the Minority that the Cocoa Stabilisation Fund was setup on October, 2014 under the NDC government but rather on 2007/2008 Cocoa Season under President Kufuor’s administration.
He explained that the Cocoa Stabilization Fund was set up by government as part of measures to guarantee stable income for cocoa farmers, that is to maintain prevailing producer prices in the event that the net FOB price fell drastically.
He said the creation of the fund therefore underpinned government’s commitment to reduce the exposure of cocoa farmers to price volatility on the world cocoa market.
Mr Asafu Adjaye further clarified that it was unfortunate for the Minority to assume that the fund was set-up to increase the producer price of cocoa, but rather a standby fund which ensured that irrespective of how low cocoa prices fell on the world market, Ghanaian farmers do not suffer a reduction in producer price.
He cited for example that in 2012/13 and 2013/14 crop seasons, following a drastic fall in world prices of cocoa, COCOBOD used the Stabilization Fund to maintain the producer price of cocoa per tonne at GH¢3,392.
Mr Asafu Adjaye also refuted claims by the Minority that the Cocoa Fertilization Distribution Programme, otherwise known as Cocoa Hi-Tech Programme was introduced under President Mahama’s regime but rather in 2004 which brought a lot of successes in terms of production output.
He said until 2014, fertilizers were being subsidised and farmers had easy access to the inputs.
He said however, from the beginning of the 2014/2015 crop season, the authoritarian Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Opuni decided to give out the fertilizer free of charge to farmers for application on their farms. The quantities purchased were insufficient to meet the needs of all farmers due to budgetary constraint.
Mr Asafu Adjaye also stated the distribution of the free fertilizer was based on cronyism and political party affiliation.
He said the free fertilizer policy created enormous avenues for corruption. Farmers complained of inadequate supply as well as diversion of the inputs.
He said on paper, huge quantities of fertilizer were purchased but cocoa farms were actually not fertilized and this was one of the major reasons why cocoa production never exceeded the 700,000 MT range.
Mr Asafu Adjaye further explained that in response to the negative fertilizer policy and several requests and recommendation from farmers, the NPP government decided to re-introduce the fertilizer subsidy programme.
He said in this way, the budgeted amount to support cocoa farmers was equitably distributed to all farmers.
He said the subsidy provided was almost 50 percent. The granular fertilizer is selling at GH¢80 and the liquid fertilizer at GH¢20 instead of the market prices of GH¢150 and GH¢38 respectively.
He said this would ensure that the fertilizer would be readily available at all sales outlets across the cocoa growing areas.
Mr Asafu Adjaye also assured farmers that the government was putting in place measures that would reduce the over dependence on foreign buyers in the determination of cocoa prices.
He announced that Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire had started dialoguing to cooperate on measures to ensure better prices for cocoa.
He said key on the recent Joint Cooperation Meeting between the two countries held in Accra was the need for both nations to ensure that at least 50 percent of cocoa produced in their respective countries was processed locally.GNA