Cocoa farmers are not happy with the producer price offered for the 2018/19 season. The price, which was maintained at last year’s price of GH¢475 per metric tonne, registered strong objections from representatives of farmer-groups.
The price of the commodity continues to decline on the world market, and according to COCOBOD CEO Boahen Aidoo, that is the best offer the board can make under prevailing circumstances. With market prices globally falling below 40 percent, there is very little the Board can do to cushion the farmers.
That is why diversifying the economy from a single export commodity of cocoa has been the clarion call from analysts, as the fluctuating world price is not an incentive to the producers. It is for this reason that a cocoa farmer will easily give up his farm for hard cash from an illegal small-scale miner!
Government will also have to work hard at its target of processing about 50 percent of the country’s total cocoa output, because we are learning that only around 20 percent of total output for the 2017/18 season was processed domestically.
Since we have recognised the importance of value addition to raw agricultural produce and there are around seven processing plants in the country which have the ability to process cocoa, we find it quite surprising that we have not been able to scale-up the processing of raw cocoa beans to offer farmers competitive prices.
For the country to still export around 80 percent of its cocoa beans in its raw form only goes to aggravate the plight of farmers who invest heavily to produce cocoa for export. Therefore, their frustration is understandable given the fact that their toil appears to be unrewarded.
COCOBOD must continue to attract investment in processing, so as to be able to give cocoa farmers a better deal. As it stands, the lamentations will continue until such time that the farmers are given a better deal. Also, there must be a conscious effort to stimulate domestic demand for the product due to its reputed nutritional benefits, particularly for children.
Why can’t we offer cocoa drinks as part of the school-feeding programme to the pupils and students? That way, we will be stimulating local demand. The bottom line is that the days when the nation could rely entirely on cocoa proceeds are far gone.