President John Evans Atta Mills on Thursday said Government would nurture the cocoa, coffee and sheanut industries and improve the lot of farmers to make them effective partners in building the Ghanaian economy.
He paid glowing tribute to cocoa, coffee and sheanut farmers across the nation for their contributions to the economy and assured them of Government’s support to increase productivity and for better living standards.
President Mills gave the assurance when a delegation of the executives of the Ghana Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association paid a courtesy call on him at the Osu Castle in Accra.
The visit is the second by the group since the Mills Administration assumed office.
President Mills said Government had already increased the producer price of cocoa for at least three times since his Administration assumed power, and gave further thumbs up to farmers for their contributions and sacrifices that had sustained the economy over the years.
President Mills described the farmers as the foundation and backbone of the economy and registered the nation’s appreciation for their sacrifices.
“A nation that does not recognize its heroes is not worth dying for,” he said.
President Mills assured the farmers that there some members of his Administration such as Mr Martey Newman, Chief of Staff and a former Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board, and Dr Kwabena Dufuor, a former Governor of the Bank of Ghana and currently Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, who would bring their expertise to address issues bordering on the cocoa, coffee and sheanut industries.
The President said the farmers were an important part of the “Better Ghana” agenda and assured them that 2011, which he had declared as a Year of Action, would be “a year with a difference” as government intended to implement a number of programmes that would positively affect the lives of Ghanaians.
“The year 2011 will be a year with a difference. Something new is coming,” President Mills said.
Alhaji Imoro Issifu Alhassan, Northern Regional Chief Farmer, acting as spokesperson for the group, commended the Mills Administration for the upward movement of the producer price of cocoa.
According to Alhaji Alhassan, the price of a bag of cocoa, which was GH¢1,632 per tonne in the 2008/09 cocoa season, had since seen constant increases.
He said the Government of the ruling National Democratic Congress increased the price to GH¢2,208 per tonne for 2009/10 cocoa season, then to GH¢2,400 per tonne within the same season.
He said the latest producer price increase by Government to GH¢3,200 for the 2010/11 cocoa season, was unprecedented.
“This latest producer price is 75 per cent of the international price which is more than the 70 per cent Government has committed itself to paying cocoa farmers.”
Aside the increase in producer price, Government had directed the Ghana Cocoa Board to pay all outstanding bonuses due cocoa farmers for the 2009/10 cocoa season by the end of December 2010.
He said COCOBOD had announced payment of a bonus of GH¢2.50 per bag or GH¢40 per tonne to cocoa farmers.
Other interventions are the provision of solar lights and torch lights to farmers in remote areas.
While commending Government for the cocoa producer price increase which had led to a decrease in smuggling, the Association reported of an increase in the smuggling of petroleum products, especially along the borders of the Yawmatwa areas of the Western Region.
The incidence of fuel smuggling had become alarming with the establishment of a new filling station at a place called Pillar 34 junction at Yawmatwa, about two kilometers from the Ivory Coast Border, the Association said.
It called on all Licensed Buying Companies to calibrate weighing scale as required by law and to refrain from cheating farmers.
The Association also threatened organized boycott of sales if the weighing scales were not calibrated.
In appreciation of the interventions of Government in the Association’s affairs in the three industries, the delegation presented a piece of kente cloth and traditional ahenemma sandals to match, to President Mills.
It also donated a cow, 40 bunches of plantain, a basket of cocoyam, and 20 tubers of yam, among others, to the Presidency.