14 February 2014

Ghana: The Continuing Plunder of Cocoa Farmers

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In virtually all endeavours under the sun, it is generally agreed that after toil comes rest and the enjoyment of the fruits arising therefrom. But apparently not for the Ghanaian cocoa farmer! For the over-exploited cocoa farmer in Ghana, however, after toil comes the gnashing of teeth.

After at least four years of back-breaking labour, our cocoa farmers are regularly and annually ripped off by the very people mandated by government to compensate them for their labour.

Chronicle investigations have found out that in all cocoa producing areas in the country, cocoa purchasing clerks use crooked weighing scales to assess the quantity of cocoa for which the farmer should be paid.

The purchasing price approved by government to be paid the cocoa farmer is for a bag of 62.5 kilogrammes. Yet, the purchasing clerks' weighing scales have been fraudulently manipulated to show 64kg, 65kg or 66kg as 62.5kg.

"The cocoa farmers are right", a purchasing clerk confirmed, "the entire fraud starts right from the top hierarchy who are aware but turn round to accuse the purchasing clerks of cheating.

"All the scales have been adjusted from source. Before the opening of every cocoa season, each purchasing clerk, irrespective of the company he or she is working for, pays GH¢10 at the office to be forwarded to the Ghana Standards Authority.

"What is that amount used for or what is its purpose? Besides, before the District Officer gives out the money to be used for purchasing to the clerk, a cash amount of GH¢8, which is equivalent to 2 kilos is deducted which is also recouped by the clerk from the poor farmer.

"If a clerk is given a full amount of GH¢212 which is the price of a bag of cocoa then that clerk's scale has been adjusted indirectly at 66 kilos, but if the GH¢8 has been deducted then the scale of that clerk would be 64 kilos per bag ... ", our deep throat noted.

As in all other instances where cheap money is made, the beneficiaries resist every attempt to legally deprive them of their booty.

The Chronicle has heard reports of the educated children of cocoa farmers going to the villages on holiday and insisting that the purchasing clerks do the proper. They would reluctantly for the day, but thereafter they would close shop for about a week or more on the pretext that they had run out of cash. Once the holiday makers departed they would open up but return to their old ways.

The Chronicle supports the appeal of the cocoa farmers for their own weighing scales to thwart the nefarious operations of the system but the mafia and the bureaucracy at the ministry and Cocobod would not permit it.

The best option, in our view, would be for the children of cocoa farmers in each town, whose school fees were paid for with cocoa money, to guide their fathers and uncles into pooling resources to buy clean weighing scales, if those behind the fraud would sit unconcerned ...

From our analysis the prognosis for freeing the cocoa farmer from the stranglehold that the current cocoa purchasing system has put on his neck appears impossible.

And that is a sad commentary on our way of life; a way of life that incubates corruption and extortion at every turn.

But God is not asleep; one day He would raise His holy hands in deliverance of the Ghanaian cocoa farmer!

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