Cocoa farmers threaten to cut down cocoa trees for rubber plantations

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Some cocoa farmers in the Eastern Region are threatening to cut down their trees and replace them with rubber if government is unable to release funds to the Local Buying Companies to enable them pay for their produce.

Lack of payment by the cocoa buying companies is causing a lot of financial constraints to farmers as they seek to settle their wards’ school fees and improve their livelihoods.

Over the years, cocoa farmers in the country have been relying solely on the income from their cocoa produce for financing of their children’s education. Even though Senior High School is free, some amount of money is still needed for provisions; and more importantly, fees for those in the tertiary institutions.

However, the majority of Local Buying Companies in the region have not been able to meet demands of farmers in terms of payment for their sales of cocoa produce.

The B&FT spoke to farmers in the Upper West Akim, Lower West Akim, Birim Central and Ayensuano districts respectively, as they expressed their challenges and worries and threatened to cut down their cocoa farms for rubber plantations.

According to them, life has been tough and difficult since the last Christmas festivities. When they send their cocoa produce for money, the Purchasing Clerks tell them that there is no money.

“Our problem is that the purchasing clerks haven’t been getting money to pay us for the past two to three months. I do not even know how to get money for my son’s school fees. We are pleading with government to intervene,” one cocoa farmer said.

“My wife is seriously sick, and I don’t have money to send her to the hospital for treatment; but I am keeping dried cocoa in the room because the purchasing clerks are saying that there is no money,” another added.

Bruce Nyarko, an assemblyman for Amarko Electoral Area in the Lower West Akim district and a cocoa farmer for 20 years, sold seven bags of cocoa beans worth GH¢4,620 about a month ago but is yet to receive any payment.

He said the situation of non-payment for produce exists, but for a short period; however, the current situation has rendered most of the farmers financially handicapped.

“They keep promising us, always, that money will come; but it is not coming. We do not know whether government is no more interested in the cocoa beans. It is either you keep your dried cocoa beans in your house or give them out to the purchasing clerks,” he lamented.

Mr. Nyarko added that the farmers’ confidence in and passion for cocoa farming is currently wavering as a result – and they are willing to channel their efforts into other plantations such as rubber.                                                                                                 FIN

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