THE ‘cocoa politics’ ahead of the 2020 general election is gaining momentum as the Minority caucus in Parliament yesterday responded to claims by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo that the erstwhile John Mahama-led administration did “zero” to boost Ghana’s cocoa production.
President Akufo-Addo, addressing the chiefs and people of Daboase in the Wassa East District of the Western Region on Tuesday as part of a two-day working visit to the region challenged the opposition National Democratic Congress to mention a single policy introduced by the erstwhile John Mahama-led government to enhance Ghana’s cocoa production.
“I want to hear from them what they are going to say to this challenge: we’re challenging them to come and tell us what they have done that has boosted agricultural production, cocoa production in Ghana.
“I can tell you the answer in advance; its zero, zero, that’s the answer,” President Akufo-Addo stated.
But at a press conference addressed by the Minority spokesperson on Food and Agriculture, Eric Opoku, the Minority said the President was either misinformed about the cocoa sector or mischievous and disingenuous with the facts about Ghana’s cocoa sector.
“We wish to inform President Akufo-Addo, perhaps remind him, that the two highest annual cocoa yields that has ever been recorded in this country happened under the watch of successive NDC administrations,” he declared.
Cataloguing what he said were policies introduced by the John Mahama administration to boost cocoa production, Eric Opoku said the erstwhile NDC government introduced the free fertilisation of cocoa farms which yielded 969,000 metric tonnes for the 2015/2016 farming year compared to the current government’s 904,000 metric tonnes for 2018/2019.
Cocoa production, Mr Opoku, MP for Asunafo South, said had further dwindled to an estimated volume of 770,000 metric tonnes for the 2018/2019 cocoa season.
“The main reason for this huge decline in cocoa production is because the Akufo-Addo government upon assuming office in 2017 cancelled the distribution of free fertilisers to cocoa farmers programme initiated by the Mahama administration and instead, fraudulently started selling ‘not for sale’ fertilisers to farmers at GH¢80 per bag,” he stated.
Another “far-reaching” intervention that was introduced by former President Mahama, Eric Opoku said was the distribution of cocoa hybrid seedlings to cocoa farmers.
Under this initiative, Mr Opoku said the Ghana Cocoa Board expanded its Seedling Nursery Sites from 28 to 330 between 2014 and 2016, distributing 170 million over the period resulting in the employment of over 4,000 labourers.
According to him, other interventions introduced by former President Mahama to motivate cocoa farmers and improve upon their livelihoods include the construction of solar-powered boreholes, schools, roads, and the continuation of the mass cocoa spraying programme introduced by former President Kufuor.
He said despite the dwindling allocation of funds to the cocoa sector to rehabilitate cocoa farms and fight pests and control cocoa tree diseases, administrative expenses to cocoa sector management agencies were on the increase.
Accusing the government of compounding the economic hardship of cocoa farmers, Eric Opoku said the producer price of cocoa had remained static at GH¢475 per bag for three consecutive years despite the fact that “there has been astronomical escalation in prices of fuel, building materials, food commodities and other goods and services.”
Boasting that John Mahama holds a better record in making life easier for cocoa farmers against harsh economic conditions, Mr Opoku said the erstwhile administration established the Cocoa Stabilisation Fund to cushion them serving notice that a future NDC government would hold the current Chief Executive Officer of the COCOBOD responsible for the abandoned cocoa roads project.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI