Pension scheme coming for cocoa farmers

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The governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) has said a pension scheme is being crafted for Ghanaian cocoa farmers by the government in conjunction with the relevant agencies.

At a press conference in Accra on Monday, 5 October 2020, the Director of Communication of the NPP, Mr Yaw Buaben Asamoa, said: “The current management of COCOBOD, in conjunction with the government and the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) is working on starting a Cocoa Farmer Pension Scheme”.

“Part of the requirements is the development of a Cocoa Management System (CMS), which amongst many functions, will hold a robust database of cocoa farmers to enable tracking of their output to help determine benefits and payments”, the Adentan MP said.  

Read excerpts of the press statement below:

COCOA REHABILITATION PROGRAMME 

Under the latest Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme, the NPP Government through COCOBOD is bearing the cost of removing (cutting) all diseased trees from farms. COCOBOD has been tasked with directly overseeing the entire process from cutting to replanting of the farms. It also provides compensation of GH₵1000.00 each to affected farmers and their landowners.  

The farms are replanted with disease-tolerant, early-bearing, high-yielding cocoa varieties, at no cost to the farmers. During the two-year-long rehabilitation period, COCOBOD provides labour to work on the farms, also at no cost to the farmers. This has proven to be a far superior approach to rehabilitating affected farms and stopping further spread of CSSVD. 

Between 2017 and 2019, a total of 144,421,477 seedlings were produced and distributed to farmers.  Most of these seedlings were utilized in the Western North and Eastern Regions for the Pilot Rehabilitation Programme (that is, replanting of CSSVD affected cocoa farms) financed by COCOBOD. 

In other to scale up the programme, the Government led COCOBOD to AfDB to secure USD600 million, out of which USD140 million (23.3%) will be devoted to the treatment of the CSSVD. 

MECHANISATION – DUAL PURPOSE PRUNER/SLASHER 

Innovations introduced and known as Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEPs) aim to increase, by significant proportions, the production capacity of existing cocoa trees and ultimately enable farmers to earn more from their labour without having to increase their farm areas. One such PEP is Mass Pruning. 

Mass Pruning is the careful cutting of dead, diseased, and excess branches off cocoa trees ahead of a flowering season. Parasitic plants (e.g. mistletoe) are removed as well. Pruned plants develop more flowers as the plants devote a lot more of their nutrients to the flowering process and then to fruit growth after pollination. These, in turn, result in significant increases in yield volumes from the same trees. 

COCOBOD is conducting mass pruning of cocoa trees across the country. This is the first time such an exercise is happening in Ghana under COCOBOD. Directly related is the distribution of 100,000 pieces of dual-purpose motorized slashers and pruners to cocoa farmers across the cocoa-growing regions. The dual-purpose motorised pruner/slasher is far more efficient than the traditional methods of weeding and pruning. Their use reduces the chances of injury to the cocoa tree such as branch tear, damage to the buds on the tree etc. They also considerably reduce the fatigue associated with farming, as one need not exert much energy when using the dual-purpose motorised pruners/slashers. 

The introduction of the equipment is not only in recognition of introducing innovative ways of farming but also the urgent need to phase out the labour-intensive ways of farming. The drudgery of the use of machetes and hoes for weeding often drives farmers to apply weedicides on their farms despite their long-term adverse effect on the cocoa trees, soil fertility and the rest of the environment. COCOBOD has, as such, placed a total ban on the use of weedicides on cocoa farms. 

The dual-purposed Sharp Power 4T Motorised pruners and slashers are distributed through recognised cocoa farmer cooperatives, which have collective ownership of the equipment, and therefore ease of access by member farmers to carry out pruning and weeding activities on their farms. This is to reduce the cost burden on farmers and at the same time, meet the overarching aim to adopt simple user-friendly technologies to ease the work of cocoa farmers. 

HAND POLLINATION 

Hand Pollination is another newly introduced PEP and arguably the single most important transformation factor in Ghana’s cocoa production history. Hand Pollination is the human aided cross-fertilization of the male and female flowers of cocoa plants. Hand pollination ensures that a greater percentage of the flowers on cocoa trees get fertilized, leading to massive increases in production. 

Averagely, a cocoa tree produces 1,000 flowers every season, yet only five per cent of the flowers grow into pods. Compared with other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which produce two tonnes of cocoa per hectare, Ghana only produces 0.45 tonnes of cocoa per hectare. To address this, COCOBOD in 2017 launched the artificial hand-pollination project in all 6 cocoa-growing regions. Cocoa trees which naturally produce 20 pods are through Hand Pollination producing anywhere between 100 to 300 pods, and even beyond. Consequently, many farms are producing at record high levels. 

The Hand Pollination creates jobs, especially for young women. COCOBOD initially engaged some 10,000 youth as pollinators and has increased the number year-on-year to over 30,000 at present. The skilful young pollinators are also being trained and assisted in establishing community-based service companies to offer pollination services to farmers. 

THE INTRODUCTION OF EARLY MASS SPRAYING/CODAPEC SCHEDULE 

The Cocoa Mass Spraying Programme is carried out to control pests and diseases of cocoa trees which cause economic loss to farmers. The government, informed by research from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG)-which showed a change in the breeding and reproduction cycle of the pests and diseases of cocoa-came up with a new twist to the period(s) the spraying exercises should be done. Cocoa farmers have hailed the introduction of the ‘Early Spraying’ Schedule.  

For best results and yields, the first round of spraying is carried out from April to May. This novelty has ensured the annihilation of the pests which hitherto could not be targeted due to lapses in the previous spraying schedule. As a boost to this scheme, COCOBOD is making effective use of Farmer cooperatives in the cocoa sector to facilitate the distribution and application of the chemicals. 

FREE SEEDLING DISTRIBUTION 

The adequate supply of Free Hybrid Seedlings to re-establish farms undergoing rehabilitation is a key component of the effort to restore farms affected by CSSVD. Cocoa seedlings are raised at selected nursery sites located within the cocoa farming communities for the replanting of CSSVD treated farms, the rehabilitation of over-aged and moribund farms, the replanting of burnt farms, the establishment of new farms and filling of vacancies in already established new farms. 

Also, COCOBOD has increased the number of nursery sites and staff of its Seed Production Division (SPD) and consequently, the number of seedlings raised each year and distributed to cocoa farmers at no cost. Steps have also been taken to modernize the production of healthy cocoa seedlings for the field with the adoption of the use of galvanized poles and treated lumber for the nursery structures instead of bamboo; the use of lasting UV-protected receptacles instead of disposable polybags (the receptacles are environmentally friendly and are reusable); the use of soilless media (cocopeat) instead of topsoil which has become increasingly difficult to access; and the sinking of boreholes and use of irrigation facilities in places where access to a perennial water source is a challenge, which previously was not the case. 

These are all being done to ensure the adequate supply of the very latest disease tolerant, early bearing, high yielding cocoa varieties approved by CRIG. These varieties bear fruit in a fraction of the time it normally takes the old types of cocoa trees and their disease tolerance provides a lot of security. 

COCOA FARM IRRIGATION PROJECTS 

COCOBOD has begun the piloting of cocoa farm irrigation systems which aim to provide alternative and supplementary water for cocoa farms to lessen the effects of climate change and harsh weather conditions on cocoa production.  

The ultra-modern solar-powered irrigation systems, were first tested on COCOBOD’s Seed Gardens and then on selected cocoa farms across the country. The irrigation systems improve the moisture content of the soils, enhance the retention of flowers of cocoa trees, help to increase the size of cocoa beans and increase productivity per hectare. Farmers with irrigation systems are able to produce cocoa all year because the cocoa trees do not suffer from the extremely dry weather of the harmattan season. 

The project is entering its next phase where many more will be installed on cocoa farms across the country. Increases in yield volumes following the installation of the systems are immediate. The present goal is to install the systems in about 30% of cocoa farms in the country, at no upfront cost to farmers.  

IMPROVED EXTENSION AGENT TO FARMER RATIO 

Over the past three years, COCOBOD has consistently increased its number of frontline extension staff on the ground by recruiting and training over 1300 youth within cocoa-growing communities to provide extension services to cocoa farmers. These youth have markedly improved the frequency and delivery of quality extension services to cocoa farmers. It has reduced the previous extension agent to farmer ratio, which was one extension officer to 3000 farmers, to the present ratio of one extension officer to 600 farmers. 

Farmers are educated on Good Agronomic Practices through rallies, group meetings, farm visits, home visits and radio programmes. They are also educated to appreciate that cocoa farming is a business. Farmers are also taken through additional livelihood skills training for livelihood diversification. These programmes include training in grasscutter and other livestock rearing; snail farming; poultry farming; soaps, detergents and pomade making; food and other cash crop farming and mushroom production, among others. These programmes are carried out through collaboration between COCOBOD and private stakeholders within the cocoa sector. 

WOMEN AND YOUTH IN COCOA FARMING 

Since 2019 COCOBOD has implemented the Environmental and Social Sustainability Project (ESSP). The project aims to improve environmental sustainability, eliminate child labour, empower women in cocoa production and enhance their roles in their communities. Already the project has trained and empowered over 6,000 women in cocoa farming. 

Also, the current management of COCOBOD has made it a deliberate policy in all of its activities to encourage women who are into cocoa farming to fully participate and take advantage of its many cocoa-related programmes. Under the new policy to bring fertilisers, inputs and other agrochemicals directly to farmers, women farmer groups and cooperatives have testified to the timely delivery of their agrochemicals from COCOBOD. Many female cocoa farmers have been awarded and will continue to the awarded, from the local to the national level, for their invaluable contribution to the cocoa sector. 

The Youth in Cocoa Farming Programme is a module currently being run by COCOBOD to help solve the peculiar challenges faced by the youth who intend to engage in cocoa farming and also to encourage others to get involved in cocoa farming. Under the programme, COCOBOD liaises with traditional authorities and landowners to release lands to young men and women who are interested in cocoa cultivation on flexible terms. 

Furthermore, young cocoa farmers are encouraged to form youth groups. This allows easy access to extension education, cocoa input supply and credit facilities. Dozens of youth groups/cooperatives with membership in the tens of thousands have been inaugurated and for the first time, are receiving direct support from COCOBOD. Such youth groups are also engaged as service providers by COCOBOD for mass spraying, hand pollination and for farm rehabilitation. The national award of “Most Promising Young Cocoa Farmer” is also to encourage more of the youth to go into cocoa farming. Youth groups are then again linked by COCOBOD to access credits from reputable financial institutions. 

EDUCATION AND WELFARE  

As part of welfare and corporate social responsibility, COCOBOD has long supported education in second cycle institutions by providing scholarships. Scholarship provision is the oldest of all the support services COCOBOD has provided to farmers. However, thanks to President Akufo-Addo, secondary school education in Ghana is now free for all. This has eliminated the need for COCOBOD to provide scholarships to the wards of farmers. 

Therefore, COCOBOD’s new policy is to channel its former scholarship funds into the construction of basic schools in cocoa farming communities. COCOBOD is identifying cocoa communities where pupils have to walk a very long distance to school and in partnership with the Ghana Education Service, is to build new schools to bridge gaps.  

In collaboration with the University of Ghana and other partners, COCOBOD is implementing a programme on social inclusion and the elimination of child labour. For that purpose, funds have been dedicated to tackling child labour and fostering gender mainstreaming. 

COCOA PRICE 

Ladies and gentlemen, only a few days ago, the Government announced a new producer price of cocoa which is GH₵ 660.00 per bag. It is by far the highest amount ever paid to Ghana’s cocoa farmers and a demonstration of the government’s commitment towards the welfare of cocoa farmers. It is a substantial increase from the previous cocoa season. It is important to consider the fact that the government maintained the producer prices in the preceding years despite a 40% decline in the international prices of cocoa. 

COCOA SEASON 

PRICE 

2012-2013 

GHC 212 PER BAG 

2014-2015 

GHC 345 PER BAG 

2015-2016 

GHC 425 PER BAG 

2016-2017 

GHC 475 PER BAG 

2017-2018 

GHC 475 PER BAG 

2019-2020 

GHC 515 PER BAG 

2020-2021 

GHC 660 PER BAG 

In adherence to the long-held principle that at least 70% of the FOB price of cocoa must be paid to cocoa farmers, the NPP has constantly exceeded 70% by paying 83.04%, 76.09% and 76.63% over the past three cocoa seasons. 

In the face of the decline of the producer price of cocoa within the global market and the mounting pressure by international bodies to reduce the producer price of cocoa, the Government instead took a decision to safeguard the welfare of cocoa farmers in Ghana by maintaining the highest sub-regional producer price in the midst of a two-year-long fall in the price of cocoa on the international market. This was at a time when Cote d’Ivoire had dropped its producer price by a whopping 30%. 

The world market price of cocoa is the single biggest determinant of the producer price of cocoa. The reality is that no Ghanaian government can claim to have control over the world market price of cocoa at any moment in time. Therefore, to increase the revenue that the country earns from the sale of its cocoa, an ingenious new stream of income must be created. This is why the Living Income Differential (LID) was introduced. 

Living Income Differential 

The LID is a component of the new cocoa trading mechanism, championed by the Ghanaian government in partnership with the Ivorian government. It ensures that every tonne of cocoa beans sold from Ghana will attract an extra $400.00 in addition to the existing premium. This historic achievement reforms the way global cocoa is priced. The objective is to reduce the high levels of poverty among farmers in Ghana and Ivory Coast, who together, produce more than 60% of the world’s cocoa.  The main aim of the LID is to safeguard cocoa farmers against price shocks. 

VALUE ADDITION/COCOA PROCESSING 

The present government, through COCOBOD, has led the effort to retool and expand the total cocoa processing capacities of the entire Ghanaian-Owned cocoa processing sector while embarking on a massive campaign to boost both local consumption and international sale. 

Under this NPP Government, WAMCO is now fit for purpose after it was restructured. It remains operational and a profit-making venture which employs hundreds of Ghanaians. 

The reopening of WAMCO is not an outlier. It exemplifies the various interventions carried out by the Nana-led NPP Government to increase local cocoa processing and value addition. Similar support has been extended to other local cocoa processing factories such as the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC), Niche Cocoa Industry Ltd., PLOT Enterprises Ghana Ltd amongst others, which has resulted in a significant improvement in their processing volumes. 

Through this effort, the total volume of locally-processed cocoa beans has moved from 27% to a record height of 40% during its peak time. This brings Ghana closer to achieving the 50% processing target that was earmarked by this Government to be attained in the next couple of years.  

Regarding small scale cocoa processing and artisanal cocoa products manufacturing, the current rules for the supply of cocoa beans require companies to purchase not less than 50 tonnes of cocoa. In view of the fact that most SMEs in cocoa processing need smaller quantities of cocoa beans for their operations, a committee made up of representatives from COCOBOD, the FDA and Cocoa Value Addition Artisans Association of Ghana (COVAAAG) have been constituted to develop strategies for value addition and local market access for artisanal chocolate and small scale cocoa processors. 

Moreover, the Government has already announced plans to further expand the local cocoa processing sector by allocating a significant proportion of the US$600 million loan facility from the African Development Bank (AfDB) to fund the scaling up of the processing of cocoa beans. In addition, it has signed an agreement for the establishment of a new cocoa processing factory at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western North Region to further increase local cocoa processing, value addition and to create jobs. 

The government is already embarking on a major campaign to boost both local consumption and international sale of the processed cocoa. It is also exploring new market avenues in Asia, particularly, in China and India, where there are ready markets for the sale of Ghana’s processed cocoa which is arguably among the best in the world. 

PENSION SCHEME/NATIONAL COCOA FARMER DATABSE 

The current Management of COCOBOD, in conjunction with Government and the National Pensions Regulatory Authority is working on starting a Cocoa Farmer Pension Scheme. Part of the requirements is the development of a Cocoa Management System (CMS), which amongst many functions, will hold a robust database of cocoa farmers to enable tracking of their output to help determine benefits and payments.  




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