‘Gov’t to reverse dominance of the aged in cocoa farming’

President John Mahama Friday said government is supporting the Youth in Cocoa Programme to reverse the dominance of the aged in cocoa farming and provide avenues for youth to engage in a lucrative enterprise.

He said over 30, 000 young people were actively engaged in the programme, which is been implemented by the Ghana Cocoa Board.

In a speech read on his behalf at the Inaugural Meeting of the World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) in Accra, President Mahama said the success of these interventions depended on the close collaboration between all stakeholders.

It was on the theme: “Creating a Uniform Voice for Cocoa Farmers for Improved and a Sustainable World Cocoa Sector”.

He lauded the farmers for coming together and promoting the sustainability of the global cocoa economy.

Government, he said, had initiated programmes such as Cocoa Mass spraying and fertilizer distribution exercise; distribution of hybrid seed for new farms; rehabilitation and replanting of over aged cocoa farms at no cost to farmers; and the elimination of worst forms of child labour in the sector; as well as improving the road network and quality of life.

According to him, while individual countries including Ghana were striving to pay cocoa farmers their fair share of Free on Board (FOB), sight should not be lost of the fact that further price increases to farmers was dependent on a favourable world market price.

“Since the introduction of cocoa in the 19th Century, cocoa farming has dominated the Ghanaian economy with almost three percent share of Gross Domestic Product, employing a million farm families and providing a source of livelihood for millions of Ghanaians,” President Mahama said.

“Government has consistently increased producer price of cocoa in spite of the fluctuating world market prices. For 2014-15 cocoa seasons, the producer price per tonne was increased from GH¢3, 392 to GH¢ 5, 520,” he said.

Apart from this, during the 2015- 2016 cocoa season that just begun, the producer price was further increased to GH¢6, 800 which is inclusive of a bonus of GH¢8.00 per tonne.

Scholarship schemes offered to cocoa farmers’ wards in second cycle schools has since 2014-2015 seasons, been increased from 7,500 to a total of 11,200.

President Mahama expressed the hope that the organisation will become a strong lobbyist group to ensure equitable distribution of the benefit that accrue from activities along the cocoa value chain to help sustain farmers interest in cocoa production.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr Stephen Opuni, said the global chocolate industry was speaking of sustainability with one accord, and explained that while respective companies operated independently holding onto their profit motives; they collaborate in their demand and support for promoting a sustainable cocoa industry.

In the same vein, he said government of cocoa consuming countries have joined the discourse, urging and supporting producer countries and organisations to accelerate the effort for achieving sustainability goals for the supply side of the industry.

The board, he said, would continue to ensure that the youth understood cocoa farming as an alternative profit making venture and reiterated COCOBOD’s support to all cocoa farmers in the country.

The 2013 Best Cocoa Farmer, Opanyin Abraham Kwaku Adusei who doubles as the Interim President of WCFO, expressed the hope that the establishment of the organisation would end the economic deprivation of the over five million cocoa farmers worldwide, and the uncertainties experienced by countries that largely depend on cocoa.

Cocoa which remains as the economic backbone of many developing countries contributes over 12 billion dollars annually.

He however noted despite effort by governments of cocoa growing countries and industry players in the value chain, global production still fluctuates, an indication that something was wrong.

This, he attributed to the low representation of farmers at the global level where major policy decisions and strategies concerning farmers were taken, coupled with the fact that consultants who represent them at such meeting at best can only provide scanty and sometimes inaccurate information on real issues prevailing.

Opanyin Adusei was not happy that some founding members of the organisation have gone beyond the declaration they endorsed in Amsterdam to get the organisation registered and appealed to all those farmers to come and join forces to fight the common enemy of poverty and deprivation facing cocoa farmers worldwide.

The World Cocoa Farmers Organization (WCFO) draws its membership from cocoa farmers around the world with the purpose of breaking the monopoly of price determination of their produce by manufacturers and processors.

Even though cocoa is one of the major commodities that generate foreign exchange for Ghana and countries that grow the commodity, most farmers remain poor, while others die in abject poverty.

The situation has been so mainly because; the farmers do not have the right to determine the price of their own produce.

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