Cocoa has for so many years been the mainstay of Ghana’s economy and still is.
Apart from serving as one of the highest foreign exchange earner for the country, it has over the years become the source of income for many.
The provision of job opportunities in the industry ranges from sowing, clearance of farms, transplanting, annual weeding, harvesting and to the processing of the commodity into finished goods into the local market and beyond.
The commodity had also contributed tremendously in the field of education, where children of the cocoa farmers gained sponsorship to further their education, particularly at the secondary and tertiary levels.
Apart from gold, the sector has been the most lucrative area that has attracted indigenes of cocoa growing areas and ‘settlers’ to engage in the enterprise from the days of Tetteh Quarshie.
Despite the seemingly rosy nature of the industry, there are perennial challenges that have thwarted or bedeviled the orderly progress of cocoa growing.
Chiefly among the myriad challenges are high costs of cocoa inputs such as spraying machines, chemical spray, fertilizers, poor prices of the commodity, poor motorable roads, lack of political will and inadequate subsidies for the farmers.
Notwithstanding the challenges, government has for some years now embarked on some measures; such as the free spraying of cocoa farms, increasing prices of cocoa and provision of motorable roads.
Punitive measures have also been spelt out for COCOBOD officers who divert cocoa inputs meant for supply to cocoa farmers throughout the country.
President Mahama’s Eastern and Ashanti visits
From Thursday June 17 to Saturday June 20, President Mahama embarked on a three-day tour of some cocoa growing areas of the Eastern and Ashanti regions as part of government’s agenda to improve the cocoa industry.
The mission was to cut the sod for a number of cocoa farming communities in the two regions from the COCOBOD’s annual $150 million budget that have been set aside for roads for the next five years.
In the Eastern Region, President Mahama cut the sod at Adeiso in the Upper West Akyem District and Kyebi, which symbolised commencement of cocoa roads in the region.
Roads such as: Adeiso-Asamankese, Asamankese-Suhum, Adeiso-Nsawam-Suhum, Apedwa-Kyebi-Bunso, Suhum-Krobiano were mentioned for attention.
Similar sod cutting activities were held in Subin Camp in the Adansi South District and Bekwai in the Amansie West District both in the Ashanti Region.
Roads such as: Atasi-Nkwanta -Owusukrom, New Edubiase-Anomabo, Bekwai-Adenkaja, Dotom-Subrisu and Ntreku Junction were among the lot that are to be constructed or rehabilitated. programme for the next five years.
President Mahama, who is expected to cut the sod for the programme to start in Brong- Ahafo, Western, Central and Volta regions, said the trend would leverage cocoa production and reduce postharvest losses as a result of poor roads.
Messages to the people
President Mahama during the three-day visit to the two regions hammered on the readiness of money for the road project, the performance of contractors and attitude of some cocoa board officers.
He stressed that money is readily available and road contractors awarded the projects would have no excuse to delay or abandon the projects mid-way.
“Any contractor who delays the project with the excuse of lack of funding should be reported, because the money is available for all of them to execute their projects accordingly.”
Roads play very vital roles in the carting of cocoa and other foodstuff from the farming communities to the commercial centres. Therefore, the construction of the roads would reduce the perennial post –harvest losses and breakdown of vehicles transporting the goods.
Another issue that was regularly on the lips of the President was the diversion of cocoa inputs. Over the years there have been complaints of input diversion to the detriment of cocoa farmers in the communities.
There have been reports of diversion from COCOBOD officials from the farmers to private chemical shops, which President Mahama believes must be curbed to the benefit of cocoa farmers and the industry in general.
In order to dissuade people from the practice, he warned that the culprits would be made to face the full rigours of the law.
President Mahama’s two-day visit to the two regions could be considered very short, but in terms of the positive impact that the projects would have in future especially in the cocoa industry, it would not be far from the truth to say his visit was like breathing new life into the cocoa industry.
By George Ramsey Benamba