The Vice President, Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia has stated that the practice where about GH¢15 billion is paid to cocoa farmers face-to-face in cash annually must stop for the funds to be transferred electronically.
He maintained that the practice defeats government’s aggressive move to achieve a digital transformation that will enhance financial inclusion. He added that such acts do not only make the sector unattractive to the youth but also creates a room that allow cocoa farmers to be exploited.
Expressing dissatisfaction at the process through which cocoa farmers are paid, Dr. Bawumia stressed that a commodity like cocoa that contributes about 2.5 percent to Ghana’s GDP and 25 percent of foreign earnings must have its payment processes to farmers digitized.
“Cash remains the primary payment method used to purchase cocoa in Ghana. The narrative must change in line with government’s digital transformation agenda”, he said at the launch of the Cocoa Management System in Accra.
Outlining the benefits of the Cocoa Management System, Dr. Bawumia said the data that will be compiled will not only enhance financial inclusion but will also enable a smooth implementation of the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme that is scheduled to be launched soon.
“I know that a successful completion of the Cocoa Management System that we are launching today will also pave the way for the implementation of the Cocoa Pensions Scheme.”
He explained that the data will provide accurate information on a number of issues such as farm size, cocoa production, average harvest as well as many vital information of cocoa farmers that will be needed to make the pension scheme successful.
“We must take advantage of technology to digitize all this information for a reliable data,” he said adding that this will provide an opportunity to keep records of all transactions undertaken by cocoa farmers to make meaningful decisions for farmers. Further, he stated that the move will help government in the certification of cocoa beans to improve its value for a higher return.
Touching on armed robbery cases recorded in the cocoa sector, the Vice President was hopeful electronic payment system will reduce the risks that farmers and other stakeholders face in carrying huge amount of money to the hinterlands to pay cocoa farmers.
On his part, the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Joseph Boahen Aidoo said the new system will provide his outfit an opportunity to monitor how cocoa inputs are distributed to farmers. He was of the view that the system will bring sunshine to all activities undertaken by third party operators, providing visibility for the regulator to ensure that inputs really go to cocoa farmers.
Recounting some specific challenges that will also be solved by the Cocoa Management System, Mr. Aidoo said the data will erase the perception in the international community suggesting that cocoa farmers engage in deforestation and child labour for their produce.
He stated that COCOBOD, on countless occasions, has been challenged by the western world to provide data to support assertions that cocoa farmers and communities do not engage in illegal activities in producing cocoa.
To cure this mischief, the COCOBOD Chief Executive is optimistic the empirical evidence that will be captured in the data indicating the number of persons engaged on farms and the kind of farming methods used will exonerate cocoa producing countries in Africa. “I have been on many international platforms and when they challenge us on data they ask us that without information, without data how do you develop policies.”
Mr. Aidoo assured that such challenges will be a thing of the past as COCOBOD embarks on a new development path to build a reliable data base.