Editorial : Meet the needs of cocoa farmers to sustain the industry

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Cocoa farmers are clamouring for an increase in producer price of the commodity for the 2020/2021 season, claiming the cost of production has skyrocketed.

In fact, they want the increase to be of a significant margin because inputs like insecticides and pesticides have seen their prices soar, and they cannot be faulted for requesting the obvious.

For the 2019/2020 season, the regulator – COCOBOD – increased the producer price for a 64 kilogramme bag from GH₵475 to GH₵515, which represented an 8.42 percent adjustment.

However, this time around, the farmers are asking for nothing less than GH₵700/64kg.

Ernest Sarkodie, the 2019 National Cocoa Best Farmer, spoke to our agriculture correspondent and stated that they need more money to buy the required quantities of agro-chemicals to supplement supplies from government in controlling pests and diseases.

It therefore appears the quantum of agro-chemicals provided by the state to these cocoa farmers does not suffice to undertake their farming activities effectively. Another farmer spoken to complained bitterly about the increasing cost of labour.

Farm labourers, we are told, have increased their daily wages from GH¢40 to GH¢50-GH¢60. Access to farm labourers within our locality is for the highest bidder, they lament. Indeed, cocoa production is a labour-intensive venture; and if the cost of labour escalates, then it adds to cost of production for the commodity – and by right, the producer price must increase in tandem.

However, we are all aware that the producer price of cocoa is not determined by the farmers themselves but determined by speculators in London. COCOBOD procured and has distributed about 100,000 pieces of dual-purpose motorised slashers and pruners to cocoa farmers across the cocoa regions.

The introduction of this equipment is meant to help phase-out the labour-intensive use of machetes for weeding and pruning on cocoa farms. Though commendable, the farmers need far more than that; particularly fair prices for their commodity.

Also, the price of liquid fertiliser per gallon has jumped from GH¢120 to GH¢150. Additionally, the price of a cutlass used to be GH¢19 but now it hovers around GH¢23-GH¢25, while cost of transportation has also surged.

Therefore, the farmers’ demand is only a reflection of market trends which cannot be downplayed or wished away. COCOBOD must respond positively to the market trends, otherwise our cocoa farmers will be laboring in vain.

Ensuring cocoa farmers are properly remunerated is crucial if we are to attract the youth into the venture. Without continuity, the industry will die a slow death.

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