The government will henceforth sell fertilizer, prior supplied to cocoa farmers in the country for free, at a subsidized cost, as part of efforts to curb the illegal distribution to nonfarmers as well as it smuggling and sale to farmers outside Ghana.
Contrary to the expectation that government’s free fertilizer policy will boost cocoa production in the country, the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo, said it rather brought down farmers output, from the one million metric tons of cocoa to an average of 800, 000 metric tons, within the last three years.
He said this happened because the fertilizers that were expected to be given to local cocoa farmers did not go to them, but mostly found their way to the wrong beneficiaries who are nonfarmers and smugglers who sold the fertilizers to farmers in other countries.
He noted that government over the last couple of years spent a lot of money bringing fertilizers more than any other period. However, he insisted that it was also during this same period that production declined.
To this end, the government has abrogated the free fertilizer supply policy and will now sell to cocoa farmers at a subsidized price of GHS80.00 while absorbing GHS91.00 which translates into about 53 percent of the total cost of GHS171.00 per a bag of fertilizer.
This emerged at a forum of COCOBOD executives and Regional and District Chief farmers from the cocoa growing regions, in Kumasi, to discuss the happenings within the industry particularly on the pricing of cocoa looking at the current price instability at the world market.
Mr. Boahen Aidoo said the cocoa producer price for 2016/17, of GHS7,600 per ton was pegged on the basis that the international price was averaged at $2,900 at which time the price volatility level was between $2,200 and $2,700.
However, he indicated that presently the volatility levels have reached $2,100 and $1,800 compelling government to peg a ton of cocoa at $1,900. But he said given that about a $1,000 has already been lost, and in view of other price variations, this could impact adversely on the industry in the coming years.
Regardless of this development, the government will have to decide on the next producer price of cocoa. However, although it is expected the government will maintain the current producer price, it was indicated that about GHS2 billion will be needed for cocoa purchases in the next cocoa season.
This among others necessitated the meeting with the representatives of the farmers to find a middle ground in addressing some of these issues.
As part of government’s efforts to increase cocoa production, the management of COCOBOD has introduced hand cross-pollination exercise across the cocoa regions of the country.
At the launch of the initiative, it was disclosed that about 30,000 farm recruits were expected to be engaged in April 2018 while over 7,000 had already been employed to assist farmers in the process.
The COCOBOD Chief Executive added that other initiatives like irrigation will be introduced to cocoa farmers to help maintain the needed moisture levels of soil, especially during the dry season, to support cocoa yield.
All these will enhance the farming activities. “Our focus is on the farmer, we see the farmer is as central and the fulcrum of the cocoa value chain. Therefore, we are focusing on improving their welfare and productivity,” he stated.
He emphasized that this will deepen their interest, make cocoa farming lucrative and attractive to the youth.
The government targets to achieve at least two tons of cocoa per a hectare of each cocoa farm, making it possible to achieve the one million metric tons of the Cocoa target. Presently, Ghana is said to be producing about 900,000 metric tons of cocoa.