To address the age-long concern of cocoa farmers regarding weighing-scale adjustment fraud allegedly perpetrated by some cocoa purchasing clerks, the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) will from October only allow the use of ‘calibrated’ electronic weighing-scales, Deputy Chief Executive of Cocobod in charge of operations, Dr. Emmanuel Opoku has said.
According to Dr. Opoku, Cocobod has taken serious note of this worrying issue of weighing fraud – believed to be taking place at the points of sale for dried cocoa beans at some buying centres and depots. “We have taken up the matter to procure non-adjustable electronic scales so they have no excuse to cheat farmers in terms of the bags’ weight,” he said.
With this, he intimated that those alleged to be involved in this act of ‘cheating’ will have no opportunity to benefit at the expense of cocoa farmers, as all licenced buying companies (LBCs) have been notified about this new directive.
Rehabilitation of old cocoa farms
The Deputy Chief Executive of Cocobod, who was responding to some issues affecting cocoa farmers at the ‘National Stakeholder Dialogue on Cocoa Farm Gate Pricing and Income of Cocoa Farmers’, also said rehabilitation of over-aged and diseased cocoa farms is ongoing.
He said about US$230million of the US$600million facility secured from AfDB has been earmarked for the project. “So far, out of our own resources we’ve done close to 8,000 hectares of the over-aged and diseased cocoa farms.” He indicated that they are hoping to reach over 160,000 hectares by end of the project’s fifth year.
New plans to transform the cocoa sector
Dr. Opoku further disclosed some new interventions put in place by Cocobod to be rolled out later in the year. These include a new ‘Cocoa Management System’ that is said to transform the local cocoa industry. Under this new programme every cocoa farmer will be registered, along with other technical details of his farm, as part of the objectives to ensure only cocoa farmers will be able to sell cocoa to LBCs.
This latest programme, which has already been piloted, is expected to end the instances wherein thieves steal cocoa beans – belonging to cocoa farmers or from LBCs – and later sell to other companies. He revealed that the new system will generate among other things electronic IDs and accounts for cocoa farmers – into which all transactions including payments will be made and recorded electronically.
“Cocoa-purchasing clerks who transact business and pay cash to people – who are not farmers and thus are not captured by the system – will be the ones to lose, since Cocobod will only deal with LBCs on the system. All cocoa sales must be made by the cocoa farmers or their designated nominees registered as next-of-kin, among others,” he stated.
The system is also expected to address the rising incidents of robbery attacks on LBCs since most of the payments will be electronic, and therefore stakeholders will not be required to move around with a lot of money.
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Getting the inputs directly to farmers
Apart from the transaction platform for cocoa marketing, there will be another platform for input sales that is designed to allow cocoa farmers to use their subsidies – which will be transferred to them electronically – to make fertiliser purchases from the input stores. “This is being introduced to stop the smuggling of fertilisers.”
He said fertiliser purchased for cocoa production must go into the soil to support cocoa production. In this regard, he said, farmers who have produced and sold their cocoa through the system will earn a subsidy through that same system.
He, however, said the subsidy cannot be negotiated for cash, while failure by a farmer to use the subsidy after twelve months will cause it to be reclaimed and later reallocated. These measures, among others that are incorporated into the system, are expected to change the entire cocoa marketing system and the way cocoa operations are done in the field for the benefit of cocoa farmers.
More on the summit
The ‘National Stakeholder Dialogue on Cocoa Farm Gate Pricing and Income of Cocoa Farmers’ also included a presentation on some of the highlights from a study on the cocoa industry commissioned by SEND Ghana in partnership with INKOTA Netwerk and Rainforest Alliance.
The Country Director of SEND Ghana, George Osei-Bimpeh, expressed satisfaction with the response from Cocobod on the study’s findings. He said they look forward to monitoring the steps outlined to address the challenges and implement recommendations that emerged from the study.