CSO says COCOBOD’s plans to use sustainability programme as bargaining chip unacceptable

Child Rights International (CRI), says plans by COCOBOD to use cocoa sector sustainability programme meant to supports farmers, as a bargaining chip for negotiating for the payment a $400 tonne premium on chocolate makers is unacceptable.

This is because the programme was design to support cocoa farmers during the normal and off seasons to increase cocoa production, deals with child protection and development as well as enhances their socio-economic activities.

A statement copied to the Ghana News Agency and signed by Mr Bright Appiah, the Executive Director of CRI, said even though his organisation “is not against the price negotiation for the premium, the intention of using the programme to compel chocolate companies is a policy mistake.

“If the sustainability programme for cocoa farmers are banned, it will have a damaging effect on the livelihoods of farmers and the entire cocoa sector,” it said.

The statement said it would be a policy errors for the government to use the programme to engage a price determination at the expense of the farmers for them to accept unfavourable conditions that would ultimately affect the sector.

This arrangement even contradicts government system policy on social development in the Cocoa sector as government has introduced a system called Ghana Child Labour Monitoring system in dealing with issues of social protection,” it said.

The statement said government must develop system for monitoring the delivery of other sustainability programmes and ensure transparency in distribution of premium to farmers.

“There will be the need to engage the process with well arranged policy direction on the disbursements of premium to build industry confidence so doing industry will be willing to pay,” it said.

The statement called on government to reconsider any decision that would not benefit cocoa farmers, particularly the sustainability programmes that continue to provide numerous benefits to the sector.

It said the sustainability programme for the cocoa sector has helped build families during the closed seasons when “things become difficult for them”.

“Over 120,000 children, who are involved in child labour have been withdrawn in cocoa area, where CRI operates. CRI has collected data on over 270,000 farmers who are getting some form of support through the sustainability programme,” the statement.

It said even if the government, through the COCOBOD, intended to negotiate with farmers in determining premiums to be paid, the negotiations must not go beyond the issue of using the sustainability programmes as a threat to engage farmers.

The statement said almost 60 per cent of livelihood programme for farmers during the off season would be slashed once government sticks to the idea and it impact will be so great.

It said government must fight any attempt by external agencies to use the sustainability programmes meant for cocoa farmers to force farmers to accept unfavourable conditions.

Yves Kone, the Managing Director of Ivory Coast’s Industry Regulator, Le Conseil du Cafe-Cacao (CCC), was quoted in the statement as saying chocolate makers could not claim that they were sourcing cocoa sustainably and at the same time hold back their support for a plan that would considerably improve the livelihoods of small-scale producers.

According to Kone, the sustainability programmes only serve a small number of farmers, while the new price mechanism would benefit all growers.

“We cannot pretend that we are working with the farmers, investing in sustainability and refusing to pay the farmer. Sustainability is also paying farmers and working together,” he added.

Chocolate makers are facing an ultimatum – either to support a contentious plan to raise the pay of impoverished farmers, or risk a halt to programs that sustainability-conscious consumers increasingly demand.

Ghana and Ivory Coast, producers of more than 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa are becoming frustrated by the slow uptake of a strategy adopted in July to levy a $400-a-tonne premium to help improve growers’ pay.

They have threatened to suspend programmes that chocolate makers rely on to certify that their beans are not grown in protected forests or with the forced labour of children.

Source: GNA

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