The European Union has threatened to stop buying cocoa from Ghana if the continuous destruction of the country’s forest reserves through illegal mining and prospecting for minerals are not stopped.
“The illegal prospecting for minerals is destroying the environment and forest cover and those involved must take a serious look at the matter,” the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo disclosed this during a courtesy call on the Western Regional House of Chiefs here in Sekondi.
Ghana stood losing the European market in the cocoa industry if the destruction of the forest reserves did not stop.
He said the EU was worried that the destruction of the forest reserves due to these illegal activities was contributing to climate change.
The COCOBOD boss accompanied by his top management team were at the regional house to brief them on the activities of COCOBOD especially debts paid by his outfit since assuming office and cocoa roads being tackled all over the country.
He said forest reserves promoted more rainfall so illegal mining in forests would affect Ghana in the near future if measures were not taken against prospecting and mining of minerals in the forest reserves.
He, therefore, appealed to chiefs to stand up and fight the menace.
He said the cocoa industry was facing many challenges in terms of the swollen shoot disease, the price and climate change through human behaviour which had contributed immensely to the decline of the production of the crop.
He said harvesting only one bag of cocoa from an acre farm was woefully inadequate for farmers.
He said since assuming office, frantic efforts had been made to improve the yield and farmers who had adhered to instructions could harvest about 20 bags from an acre.
Mr Aidoo said the use of cutlass on cocoa farms was too tedious so new slashing machines had been procured for farmers to use lesser time and energy to gain more yield.
The COCOBOD CEO said due to climate change the rainfall pattern had reduced drastically so farmers were taught how to use irrigation to increase their yield and advised them to plant rubber trees where the rainfall was very heavy because rubber needed more water than cocoa.
He asked the traditional authorities to kick against the use of weedicides on farms because some micro-organisms were destroyed by these chemicals causing a lot of damage to the land and explained that the micro-organisms helped in producing nutrients in the soil which plants needed for growth.
The CEO of COCOBOD announced that the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme would be launched on October 1, next month to cater for the hardworking cocoa farmers.
The President of the House, Ogyeaohoho Yaw Gyebi II, said government must give power to the traditional authorities to operate in their areas, adding that sometimes a chief would send for someone and that person would refuse to attend to the chief’s call which was insubordination.
He blamed the Forestry Commission for issuing permits to people to operate in the reserves and urged the government to stop the commission from issuing the permits.
The President who is the Paramount Chief of Ahwiahso said the destruction of the forest was being done with the connivance of some politicians and people in authority and so the culprits could not be reprimanded.
FROM PETER GBAMBILA, SEKONDI