THE Member of Parliament (MP) for Kwadaso, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has stressed the need for the country to take maximum advantage of the new opportunities in the global cocoa trade by putting in measures to increase production.
He stated that the world cocoa industry was on a fundamental upswing with world prices reaching the highest levels in 30 years, stressing, “the right mix of policies is crucial and urgently required from the Government to take advantage of the situation”.
Speaking to the Daily Graphic in Kumasi, Dr Akoto, a former economic advisor to the International Coffee Organisation in London, mentioned the right payment of producer prices to farmers and mass cocoa spraying exercise as two of the key areas that should be tackled with seriousness and honesty.
The MP, who is expected to put an urgent question in Parliament tomorrow on the new cocoa price, said the new producer price announced by the Government for the 2009/2010 marketing season, was “disappointing” because it did not reflect the high price paid on the world market.
“Many farmers across the country have expressed disappointment and there is widespread scepticism about the impact of the revision on future production and export earnings for Ghana,” he said.
Dr Akoto discounted claims by the Government that the new producer price amounted to 70 per cent of the world market price.
“If the Government had kept its campaign promise to pay 70 per cent of the world market price to cocoa farmers, the price should have been more than doubled to G¢¢3,500 per metric tonne and not GH¢2,208.
According to the MP, by calculations, the new price was only 43.9 per cent of the world price compared to 62.8 per cent in 2008.
“When the new reality of the unfolding market in the global cocoa industry is taken into account, the Ghanaian cocoa farmer is far worse off now than a year ago,” he said.
Dr Akoto said if the cocoa industry in Ghana was to see real growth, the nominal price increase awarded to cocoa farmers by the Government should compensate for their toil.
While expressing regret at reports of smuggling of cocoa to neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, Dr Akoto said that could be tackled if the right price was paid to farmers.
That notwithstanding, he appealed to the farmers to consider the nation first and stop the smuggling.
On the mass cocoa spraying exercise, Dr Akoto said the decision to sack experienced sprayers and replace them with party activists did not help matters, stressing, “This has brought the spraying programme to a virtual standstill in many districts”.
He said “the negative effects of inadequate producer price and the disruption in the spraying programme are bound to cause further delays in reaching the production target of one million metric tonnes of cocoa”.
Dr Akoto said the potential loss to the economy would be enormous, particularly the loss in rural income, employment, internal trade, exports and foreign earnings.