Farmers want cocoa price increased to GHC700 per bag

Cocoa growers say the cost of production has skyrocketed and their standard of living is deteriorating: the need to increase the producer price is more urgent than ever, they say

Cocoa farmers have appealed to Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to increase the producer price of cocoa beans in the coming 2020/21 season to GHC700.

According to the farmers, the cost of production has skyrocketed in recent times and the general standard of living among farmers is deteriorating.

If COCOBOD adjusts the cocoa price, this will help transform the lives of poor farmers and attract the youth into cocoa farming to reinvigorate the ageing farming population.

In the 2019/20 cocoa season, COCOBOD increased the cocoa producer price for a bag from GHC475 to GHC515, an adjustment of 8.42%.

This time around, the farmers are asking for a significant increase, pegging their demand at no less than GHC700/64kg.

The 2019 National Best Farmer, Ernest Sarkodie, said: “Costs of inputs such as insecticides and pesticides have soared significantly. We need more money to buy the required quantities to supplement supplies from the government in controlling pests and diseases.

“If COCOBOD can cushion the price to between GHC700 to GHC900, we’ll appreciate it.”

Goodbye to the machete

Philip Appiah Boakye, 2019 Regional Best Cocoa Farmer (Ahafo, Bono and Bono East), said: “The cost of labour keeps rising every year; farm labourers have increased their daily wages from GHC40 to GHC60. Easy access to farm labourers within our locality is for the highest bidder.”

He said the escalating cost of labour could push some farmers to revert to using weedicide to control weeds. This poses a grave threat to the country’s cocoa industry.

Appiah Boakye has urged COCOBOD to find pragmatic measures to address the challenge, therefore, in order to discourage the use of weedicide.

COCOBOD procured roughly 10,000 dual-purpose motorised slashers and pruners and distributed them to cocoa farmers across the cocoa-growing regions. The introduction of the equipment is intended to help phase out the labour-intensive use of machetes for weeding and pruning on cocoa farms.

However, Appiah-Boakye said: “The machines cannot be applied on every cocoa farm. Most of us practise mixed cropping, growing other food crops like cocoyam and cassava on our cocoa farms. Using the slashers on such farms will end up clearing the food crops.”

Sulley Mustapha, a farmer at Wamfie in the Dormaa East District of the Bono Region, said: “In the last 12 months, the price of liquid fertiliser has increased from GHC120 to GHC150. The price of a cutlass used to be GHC19, but now it is between GHC23 and GHC25. Besides, the cost of transportation has also surged;. So, it is economically wise for COCOBOD to respond with a price increase commensurate with the rising cost of production.”

The farmers expressed optimism that they would increase production in the coming season. This will help COCOBOD to achieve its target for the season.

Syndicated loan

Last week, Parliament approved a loan of US$1.3 billion from a consortium of banks and financial institutions to enable COCOBOD to purchase cocoa beans for the 2020/21 season.

The Board estimates that it will buy roughly 900,000 metric tonnes of beans through licensed buying companies (LBCs).

Sarkodie, Ghana’s 2019 National Best Cocoa Farmer, said he produced roughly 3,000 bags from his farm, which extends over 200 acres. His target for the 2020/21 season is between 3,500 and 4,000 bags, he said.

“I’m leveraging COCOBOD’s Productivity Enhancement Programme (PEPs), [with assistance] such as hand-pollination, pruning and fertiliser distribution to achieve the target. The hand-pollination has so far covered about 50 acres. It is still ongoing.”

Appiah-Boakye, who produced 457 bags in the last crop season, estimates he will be able to scale up production to between 800 and 1,000 bags.

“I’m very optimistic of meeting this target,” he said. “I have employed the services of pollinators to support the efforts of COCOBOD. Pruning has been done to the specification of extension advice.”

* Asaase Radio 99.5 – tune in or log on to broadcasts online.

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