The President of the Republic, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, has thrown a challenge to his predecessor, John Dramani Mahama, to name a single policy his erstwhile government introduced to boost the production of cocoa in the country.
Addressing a durbar of Chiefs at Daboase, in the Wassa East district of the Western Region, on Tuesday, 23rd July, 2019, President Akufo-Addo noted that the government of President Kufuor moved cocoa production from some 350,000 metric tonnes at the end of the year 2000 to 750,000 tonnes at the end of 2008, and had projected Ghana to hit the million metric tonnes by 2010, a feat which was realized under the late President Mills.
"President Mahama came to meet a production level of 1 million tonnes, and yet, by the end of his tenure, it had dropped to barely 700,000 tonnes. Today, under my Government, it has risen to 900,000 tonnes, and yet you (Mahama) are going around, offering fake solidarity to the cocoa farmers, shedding crocodile tears in front of cocoa farmers, that you have done something to improve the lot of cocoa farmers. These are crocodile tears," the President said.
With the introduction of his government's policies such as the hand pollination, mass pruning of cocoa trees using motorized pruners, early spraying of cocoa farms, motorized slashers to replace the use of machetes, and the piloting of irrigation schemes for cocoa farms to ensure all year-round production, President Akufo-Addo threw a challenge to his predecessor.
"When Hon. J.B. Aidoo was speaking, he asked for one policy of the previous NDC government that has boosted agricultural production and cocoa production. I want to hear from them what they are going to say to this challenge. We are challenging them to come and tell us what they have done that is boosting agricultural and cocoa production in Ghana. I can tell you the answer in advance - Zero! Zero! Zero!" the President stressed
Touching on the roads sector, President Akufo-Addo noted "whenever I travel across the country, the first thing the people of Ghana complain about is the state of their roads, even though you (Mahama) claim to have fixed those same roads. If you (Mahama) truly fixed the roads, why are Ghanaians constantly complaining to me with the state of their roads?"
According to the President, the simple answer to that questions is that "you (Mahama) did not speak the truth to Ghanaians. You didn't do the work you said you had done. We are the ones who are doing the work, so give us space to do it, instead of touting falsehoods."
On his part, the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, noted that the administration of President Akufo-Addo spent the first two years in office clearing the arrears inherited from the Mahama government. Indeed, he added that in the last 10 days of 2016, i.e. from 20th December to 31st December 2016, when President Mahama knew he had lost the 2016 election, the $400 million that was in the COCOBOD account was expended.
"We came into office, and spent the first two years to clear all the arrears inherited from the Mahama administration. The process of constructing cocoa roads is about to begin. Government has approved the disbursement of GH¢3 billion to construct 350 cocoa roads across the country. Secondary evacuation roads, i.e. trunk roads, are also going to be constructed," he added.
Even though the former President's claim to fame in the cocoa sector was the introduction of free fertilizers, the COCOBOD CEO noted that the introduction of the policy led to a reduction of Ghana's production capacity from 1 million tonnes in 2010/2011 to 740,000 metric tonnes in 2016, under President Mahama.
Whilst Cote d'Ivoire, in 2010, was producing 1.1 million tonnes of cocoa, they increased the production of cocoa to 1.8 million tonnes, even though fertilizer is not distributed to their farmers free of charge.
"The free fertilizer policy hasn't helped Ghanaian farmers. Upon assuming office in 2017, we revisited the old policy of subsidized fertilizers, mass cocoa spraying exercise, and introduced the hand pollination system, and, in 2017/2018, we produced 968,000 tonnes of cocoa," Hon. J.B. Aidoo added.
Government, he added, has also reintroduced the policy scrapped by President Mahama in 2014 of supporting cocoa farmers who had cocoa farms infected by the swollen-shoot virus disease.
"Government is absorbing the absolute cost of rehabilitation of the farms - cost of cutting the trees, replanting and the foodstuffs being planted in the farms. COCOBOD maintains the farm for the first two years - the critical stages of the farm. Additionally, for every one hectare of cocoa farms infected with the swollen-shoot disease cleared, the farmer is compensated with GH¢1,000. If the farmer is a share-cropper, the land owner also receives GH¢1,000," he added.
The COCOBOD CEO told cocoa farmers that, from 2020/2021 cocoa season, every tonne of cocoa beans from Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire that will be sold on the international market will attract an additional $400 as a living income differential for farmers.
The $400 million living income differential would be added to the prevailing price of the crop, of which 70% would be paid to the farmer at the farm gate.
"For instance, today, the price is $2,300. So, $400 will be added to make it $2,700, and 70% ($1,890 or GH¢10,017) of the total will be paid to the farmer. This is unprecedented in Ghana's cocoa industry," he added.