Editorial: Is our cocoa industry dying a slow death?

Cocoa farmers pension scheme kicks off
Cocoa farmers

There is a lot of indiscipline in our midst and people are having a field day getting away with almost anything.

Reports coming in from parts of Ashanti Region show that indiscriminate sand winning is affecting cocoa farming, as sand winners are having a field day in places like Effiduase, Tunkumso, Tetekaaso in Sekyere East District; Bomeng and Akrofosu in Sekyere-Kumawu District; and Yawnso in Sekyere Central among other communities like Kyekyewere and Boaman.

The sand winners use excavators while others resort to manual (pickaxe and shovel) to collect the sand from farmlands with little, or no protest by individual farm owners. The destroyed farms have been left with scars like ponds etc.

The sand-winners offer as low as GH¢3,000 as compensation for an acre of destroyed cocoa farm. The farmers must either be impoverished and in need of hard cash, or just impervious.

The modus operandi of the sand winners are that they sometimes destroy the farms before negotiating with individual farmers. They hide behind supposed authorisation from chiefs and family heads to bully farmers as well as water down the demands during negotiations.

This is outright blackmail and COCOBOD must take a keen interest in this development that threatens the sustainability of the cocoa industry in the country. In 2017, a parliamentary report revealed that 85 percent of sand winners in the country operate illegally.

If not stopped, sand winning in cocoa farms could deepen the woes of Ghana cocoa production as the country is struggling to halt other activities like illegal mining. In many circumstances, the farmers complain of bad times and as such, some end up leasing portions of their farms for sustenance. There are a lot of challenges in the cocoa industry as it stands, and cocoa farmers feel the brunt of these challenges, little wonder farmers sell their farms to illegal miners, or even sand winners.

There are many problems facing the country’s cocoa industry and these unfortunate incidents give rise to the reality of the state of the industry today and how it requires some urgent attention. Cocoa is a national product and it must be protected at all costs.

The recent upward adjustment of the price of a bag of cocoa is a good step, but more has to be done to save this dying industry.

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