Cocoa farmer associations are being urged to sit up and forge a more united front in order to have better bargaining power to demand improved support from the government.
Cocoa consultant, Nelson Kpodo Tay is concerned farmers, though powerful, are not using their power adequately to secure from government what is due them.
“Farmers are a strong force. Except that the cocoa farmer associations, I’m not seeing any marked distinction. They can corner the government and ask them specifically what arrangements do you have for us?” Mr. Kpodo Tay said.
Cocoa is Ghana’s most important cash crop and a major contributor to the economy. It is estimated Ghana earns an average of $1.5 billion annually from cocoa.
The farmers earn only about 70% of the price of cocoa with the rest going to government.
Proceeds from cocoa have been used to shore up the Ghanaian economy, pay for roads, education, health facilities among others across the country.
It is estimated that about 800,000 farm families produce cocoa in Ghana. With their vast numbers, there are hundreds of cocoa farmer associations across the country with no single united front.
Despite their huge contribution to the economy, the farmers complain of neglect by government.
“They have been promising us all these years, they never do it. When it comes to political time, they come and give us a lot of promises for our finger,” Stephenson Anane Boateng who is president of the Ghana National Cocoa Farmers Association told JoyNews.
Farmers complain about high cost of inputs. They lament subsidized and free inputs are not reaching them. The also complain vast pests and disease infestation on their fields.
“Our work, we are suffering. But government is not looking after us well.
“Our major concern has to do with the absence of chemicals and diseases on our field. Government should let the agricultural extension officers help us find remedies but that is not happening,” William Sayambire who is a cocoa farmer in the Wassa Akropong District told JoyNews.
“The free chemicals under the mass spraying programme only gets to the leaders. We don’t get some. Sometimes too it delays. So that is very worrying for us,” he lamented.
Mr. Kpodo Tay also criticizes the frequent changes of leadership at the Ghana COCOBOD, a situation he says should cease.
“The lack of inertia of managing cocoa house is a challenge, they keep changing the real workers when political changes come. New ones come with new projects. So we are not holding down firmly, we are not drilling down,” he observed.