Dr Isaac Yaw Opoku, Member of Parliament (MP) for Offinso South in the Ashanti Region, has mounted a spirited defence for the extension of the cocoa pension scheme to all farmers.
According to the New Patriotic Party (NPP) legislator, the extension of the Cocoa Farmers’ Pension Scheme to cover all farmers in cocoa-growing regions across the country will motivate them to stick to cocoa farming.
Dr Opoku noted that extending the scheme, which was piloted in the Western North and the Ashanti regions, would encourage farmers to stop ceding their cocoa farms to other competing land uses, particularly illegal mining and rubber cultivation. “This will also help our cherished cocoa farmers to enjoy decent and sustainable pensions when they retire from active cocoa farming,” he said.
Dr Opoku averred that the government must not lose sight of the factors which militated against cocoa production in Ghana. He disclosed that in the 2020/2021 cocoa season, production in Ghana stood at 1,045,500 metric tonnes, the highest production ever in Ghana’s history.
Surprisingly however, the Offinso MP said one year on, production dropped to 683,268.9 metric tonnes in the 2021/2022 season, representing a 34.6 per cent decline. This, he said, was the lowest production in the country since the 2009/2010 season.
“Although several factors may account for the sharp decline, principal among them is the effect of illegal mining, popularly referred to as ‘galamsey’. If the rate of destruction of cocoa farms as a result of galamsey activities is allowed to continue, in no time, our enviable position as the second largest producer of quality premium cocoa in the world will be lost and there will be very little to celebrate in the future.”Dr Isaac Yaw Opoku
Availability Of Adequate Quality Cocoa Beans
The MP asserted that to ensure the availability of adequate quality cocoa beans for local processing and export, farmers must be encouraged to adopt the productivity enhancement programmes introduced by the Ghana Cocoa Board in 2017. He also emphasised the need for soil moisture stress in cocoa farms as a result of climate change to also be addressed.
“Ghana Cocoa Board must endeavour to extend the pilot irrigation programme started in 2017 to cover many more medium and large-scale farmers. The Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana must also intensify ongoing research in the development of drought-resistant or tolerant cocoa varieties that suit the marginal cocoa growing areas of Ghana.”Dr Isaac Yaw Opoku
Dr Opoku noted that for Ghana to make gains in its cocoa crop, efforts must be made to support the sustainable production of cocoa and local processing of cocoa beans. “Let us patronise made-in-Ghana chocolate and cocoa products and let us say no to the destruction of cocoa farms for galamsey activities and the pollution of our water bodies which serve as sources of water for irrigation of our cocoa farms,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has recently announced the nationwide enrolment of cocoa farmers in the Cocoa Farmer Pension Scheme which was scheduled to begin in October.
COCOBOD indicated that it is working hard towards the realisation of the full potential of the Living Income Differential (LID) to help roll out the scheme despite the actions of buyers to evade the pricing mechanism.