Eric, Opoku, (Hon.) writes: RE: AKUFO, ADDO, COLLAPSED, COCOA, SECTOR
The minority in Parliament have noticed with dismay the response of COCOBOD to the factual statement alluded to by former President John Mahama in respect of the collapsing cocoa industry in Ghana.
It is an incontrovertible truism and COCOBOD’s response is nothing but a misrepresentation intended to whitewash the dismal performance of the Nana Addo/Bawumia government. We aver that COCOBOD under Nana Addo/Bawumia government is a whitewashed tomb – pretty on the outside but full of decay and rottenness on the inside.
In 2017, the NDC handed over a prosperous and thriving cocoa industry with buffers in the cocoa stabilization fund, farmers’ welfare fund, depreciation fund, farmers’ housing fund, and others including GH₵29 million set aside for the rolling out of the cocoa farmers pension scheme envisaged under the P.N.D.C.L 81.
Shockingly, the Nana Addo’s government has dissipated all these buffers within 6 years, leaving nothing for the industry to lean on in times of difficulties. Again, the Board has been incurring losses since Nana Addo assumed office. COCOBOD is yet to explain why the cocoa industry cannot be profitable under the Nana Addo/Bawumia government. Available records indicate the following;
Source: Auditor General reports, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021.
In 2021, a loss of GH₵1.6 billion was recorded. This was reported to Parliament before the approval of the 2022/23 cocoa syndicated facility. This pitiful and pathetic performance is unprecedented in the history of cocoa in Ghana.
Consequently, the cocoa industry is under severe dehydration and feebly gasping for breath. Is the industry not collapsing?
In 2021/2022, Ghana recorded its lowest cocoa production of 683,000 tons in the last 15 years. 640,000 tons out of this were collateralized for the syndicated loan, and 30,000 tons used to service the Chinese loan contracted for the construction of the Bui Dam. Only 13,000 tons were available to feed the cocoa processing industry which has a dependable capacity of 285,000 tons and an installed capacity of 400,000 tons. The cocoa processing industry is also hobbling since its survival is heavily hinged on the importation of cocoa beans.
Declining cocoa production breeds reduction in cocoa incomes which eventually reduces the quality of life of our hardworking cocoa farmers.
On January 19, 2023, the six-month cocoa bill with face value of GH₵940.42 million matured but Bank of Ghana defaulted explaining that although it went through the usual processes to re-issue on behalf of COCOBOD to raise funds to cover the maturing obligations, the auction unfortunately failed and was severely “undersubscribed resulting in a shortfall of GH₵855.42 million”. This represents 90.96% under subscription and a clear expression of loss of confidence in COCOBOD by the investors. Again, this unenviable feat chalked by Nana Addo/Bawumia government is unknown to the history of cocoa in Ghana.
In addition to the foregoing, it is an immutable fact that Ashanti, Eastern and Western Regions contribute close to 90 percent of total cocoa production in Ghana. COCOBOD has reported that illegal digging and unregulated use of mercury and other chemicals to extract gold (galamsey) has affected 81 percent of cocoa farmlands in Eastern region, 74 percent in Western Region and 68 percent in Ashanti region. Is this not enough to say that the sector is collapsed?
Article 257 of the 1992 Constitution places a responsibility on the President of the Republic of Ghana to protect all mineral resources found within the boundaries of Ghana for the people of Ghana. It is against this background that the President secured parliamentary approval in 2019, to expend a whopping GH₵30 million on the fight against the menace of galamsey. Is the President not blamable for the ravages of galamsey?
On the issue of cocoa producer price, within the first three-year period of the administration of former President John Mahama, i.e. from 2012/13, to 2014/15 crop seasons, there was a total of 62.7 percent increase in the producer price (from GH₵212 in 2012/13 to GH₵345 in 2014/15). In comparison, within the same period under Nana Addo, from 2017/18 to 2019/20, there was a total increase of 38.94 percent (from GH₵475 in 2017/18 to GH₵660 in 2019/20). The only period in the history of cocoa in Ghana where we had a zero percent (0%) increase in producer price for three consecutive seasons was 2019/20, 2020/21 and 2021/22 under Nana Akufo Addo. The producer price was GH₵660 for these three seasons.
Again, in the entire four year period of President John Mahama, producer price of cocoa was increased by 124.1 percent (from GH₵212 in 2013/14 to GH₵475 in 2016/17) contrasted with 68.4 percent in the last six years under Nana Addo (from GH₵475 in 2017/18 to GH₵800 in 2022/23).
It must be noted that the highest jump of producer price in the last two decades happened under John Mahama in 2014/15 season (from GH₵212 to GH₵345 – 62.7%).
Ghana COCOBOD must know that they cannot seek refuge in lies to cover the havoc they have wrecked on the cocoa sector, the untold hardships unleashed to the Ghanaian cocoa farmer and the crass incompetence, mismanagement, recklessness, and insensitivity demonstrated so far.
Former President John Dramani Mahama has been very candid to the good people of Ghana in his political life. His comments on the cocoa sector were fair and candid.
*Eric Opoku (Hon.)*
Ranking Member, Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs Committee