19-year-old Josephine Amedro might possibly be the first of S.K Amedro’s seven children to study at the university.
She is a fresh graduate from the Asenyaa Senior High School and she is hoping to attend the University of Cape Coast.
“I want to become a police officer,” she said with excitement.
But, such a feat will not only depend on how well Josephine performs in her West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE); it will also depend on how much money is available to pay her school fees at the university.
For now, she has no option but to help her father harvest cocoa on his farm.
Josephine’s father, 68-year-old S.K Amedro has been a cocoa farmer since 1973 but despite the many years spent breaking his back on the farm and working in the cocoa industry, Amedro is unlikely to sponsor his daughter’s tertiary education.
He attributed the situation to the current cocoa pricing regime of the government.
After 41 years of cocoa farming, old Amedro still lives in a partly brick and partly clay structure in Amantena, a small village in Asamankese in the Eastern Region of Ghana.
Amedro’s situation is not an isolated case. Thousands of cocoa farmers in the country have very little or nothing to show for their hard work.
According to a 2013 “Analysis of incentives and disincentives for cocoa in Ghana” report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in most cocoa producing households, earnings from cocoa accounts for over 67 percent of the household’s income.
The producer price of Cocoa is GH¢212.00 per bag of 64 kilograms. A tonne of cocoa is GH¢3,392.00.
The price has been maintained since the previous season in an environment where the Cedi has lost 30% value, trading against major international currencies while domestic inflation rate has also hit 15.3% as of July 2014.
President John Dramani Mahama in May this year said his government will ensure an increment in the producer price of cocoa for the 2014/2015 crop season.
According to the Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Dr. Stephen Opuni, “the producer price of cocoa is not fixed by COCOBOD or government alone. We have what is called the producer price review committee and it is made up of the licensed buying companies, COCOBOD, government representatives and farmers.”
Cocoa is one of Ghana’s most important export crops, currently the fourth biggest export earner for the country.
In 2010, it contributed 30% of Ghana’s total export earnings and 8.2% of gross domestic product.
Its production takes place in six out of the ten regions in Ghana and cocoa production in Ghana is done mostly by small holder farmers.
About 700,000 households grow cocoa mostly on 2-3 hectors of farm lands.
The former British colony’s cocoa exports reached a record high of 1,004,000 metric tonnes in the 2010/2011 cocoa crop season, the highest by the country since Tetteh Quashie brought cocoa beans to the then Gold Coast over a century ago.
But since the 2010/2011 feat, Ghana has been struggling to boost local cocoa production with some critics suggesting that the country may never be able to repeat the successes achieved three years ago.
A visit to some cocoa growing areas in the Eastern Region showed the myriad of difficulties that militate against the cocoa production chain in Ghana.
The first leg of the trip was to Yaw Tanor, Amantena in Asamankese, Prankese in Kade, Breman, Krodua and Abam Krom all in the Eastern region.
The story of how to access seedlings from COCOBOD when one wants to start a cocoa farm varies from one farmer to the other and a bit too tedious sometimes because according to the cocoa farmers, the various support programs are not reaching their intended targets.
According to SK Amedro, the cocoa health and extension division in Asamankese supplies him with seedlings.
But, another cocoa farmer, a retired broadcaster, Baffour Aku Akoto had a different story to tell.
According to the 64-year-old, “previously they were giving us [seedlings] directly from the extension office but now we have to go to other sources for it ,… they should abandon it.”
“The challenges are many and it looks as if the government normally comes out with a certain policy and it is announced. It looks from the outside as if it was perfect. The aspect of getting the farmers fertilizers ever since i started my farm, the past six year , I’ve not received any fertilizer from the government”.
According to an extension officer with the Cocoa Health and Extension Division in Asamankese, Amoako Baffour, the removal of subsidies on imported agriculture products have also worsened the plight of cocoa farmers.
“Just last year fertilizers were sold GHC 33 but now fertilizer is GHC 52 and every acre needs 3 bags of fertilizer…we learnt the government cannot absorb the subsidy on imported agric products any more …we are pleading that to make our work easier government should intervene,” he complained.
Baffour Aku Akoto also said some farmers still don’t benefit from the mass spraying exercise from government because the program has been politicized.
Extension officer Amoako Baffour confirms Baffuor Aku Akoto’s claims, saying COCOBOD was introducing some measures to deal with the challenges.
“The little me as an extension agent I’ve noticed is that, the politics we are doing in the country is spoiling everything because they’ve sent the politics into the mass spraying …from now going the mass spraying is going to be handled by the extension officers.”
According to Dr. Stephen Opuni some $200 million is expected to be invested into the mass spraying programme across the country for the 2014/2015 cocoa season.
“We are procuring chemicals for mass spraying and also fertilizer. For the first time the farmers are going to have the fertilizer for free, it used to be subsidized and sold to farmers”, he affirmed.
Ghana is targeting 830,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans for the 2013/2014 crop season but already, there are hints from COCOBOD that the country might beat the target.
But the country’s low cocoa prices and the more than 30 percent depreciation of the cedi this year have combined to cause some farmers and purchasing clerks to smuggle their beans to neighboring Ivory Coast, the world’s largest cocoa exporter.
According to a Reuters news agency report, as much as 100,000 tonnes of cocoa had been smuggled into Cote d’Ivoire since October 2013.
As of Thursday, June 12, 2014 COCOBOD announced that purchase for the 2013/2014 main crop season had been brought to a close, while Licensed Buying Companies and stakeholders in the cocoa industry on July 4 were alerted about the opening of purchases for the 2014 light crop season.
The poor road networks in these cocoa growing areas are so poor that many of the trucks expected to transport the cocoa beans, end up stuck in the hinter lands for weeks, while bringing general economic activities to a stand-still.
Micheal Agboso a driver who has been using the Adeiso to Asamankese road for the last 9 years said: “When it rains it is very, very terrible, all the time they will say they will come and do it but they will come and put sand on it and when it rains it will remove it “.
COCOBOD, the regulator of the cocoa industry in Ghana, is seeking to raise 2 billion dollars for the 2014/2015 crop season.
Plans to boost cocoa yields are great for Ghana a country in dire need of foreign exchange to cushion its falling cedi, but will this work?
Although demand for cocoa is expected to rise by 30% by 2020, there are fears that there will not be extra chocolate and confectionery on retailers’ shelves, unless small farmers and cocoa traders are given more power.
By: Rabiu Alhassan/citifmonline.com/Ghana