The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has refuted allegations by the Minority in parliament that it is treating farmers unfairly.

“We would like to appeal to our cherished farmers to disregard any publication and comments which seek to suggest that cocoa farmers are being treated unfairly,” the firm indicated in a counter press statement after a release by the Minority on Wednesday, June 21.

The statement pointed out that the Minority had said that cocoa prices would not be increased due to the fall in world market price of the commodity.

However, Cocobod explained that “the Producer Price Review Committee is the only body mandated by law to set the price of cocoa, and the Chief Executive has already reiterated that at various fora”.

On the Cocoa Stabilisation Fund, Cocobod stated that the fund was established during the 2007/08 cocoa season. According to them, government set up the fund as part of measures to guarantee stable income for cocoa farmers.

“In other words, the fund was meant to maintain the prevailing producer price in the event that the net FOB price falls drastically, as being experienced now, so that government does not reduce the producer price,” the statement said.

“The creation of the fund, therefore, underpins government’s commitment to reduce the exposure of cocoa farmers to price volatility on the world cocoa market.

“It is, therefore, unfortunate to assume that the fund was set up to increase producer price. The Stabilisation Fund is rather a standby fund which ensures that irrespective of how low cocoa prices fall on the world market, Ghanaian farmers do not suffer a reduction in producer price.”

Cocobod further revealed that in the 2012/13 and 2013/2014 crop seasons, following a drastic fall in world price of cocoa, it used the Stabilisation Fund to maintain the producer price of cocoa per tonne at GHS3,392.00.

“It is, therefore, not out of place for COCOBOD to take similar measures in the 2017/18 crop season to avoid a total collapse of the cocoa sector and to sustain cocoa farmers’ interest in the industry,” Cocobod reiterated.

“The Stabilisation Fund, therefore, is neither to be used to increase producer price nor pay bonuses as stated by the Minority in Parliament, but rather as the name implies to stabilise prices to the farmers.”

The release indicated: “The producer price of GHS 7,600.00 per tonne of cocoa announced at the beginning of the 2016/2017 crop season has not and will not be reviewed downwards as being speculated, despite the fall in the world price of cocoa from over US$3,122 per tonne in June, 2016 to as low as US$1,900 in June, 2017.”

Even though such conditions which saw a 40 per cent fall in the world market price of cocoa have the potential to cause a reduction in the producer price, as being done in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Cameroon, COCOBOD said it “decided to absorb the loss and by this arrangement cocoa farmers are being paid extra $400 above what the market prescribes for every tonne of cocoa bought from them”.

Additionally, Cocobod said the Cocoa Fertiliser Distribution Programme, otherwise known as Cocoa Hi-Tech Programme, was introduced in 2004 to improve soil fertility, among others.

Cocobod said since the introduction of the programme, a lot of successes have been chalked in terms of production output.

“Until 2014, fertilisers were being subsidised and farmers had easy access to the inputs. However, from the beginning of the 2014/2015 crop season, Cocobod decided to give out the fertilisers free of charge to farmers for application on their farms. Even though the idea was laudable, the consequences were far from the anticipated intentions,” Cocobod said.

“Farmers complained of inadequate supply as well as diversion of the inputs. It is, therefore, in response to the several requests and recommendations from farmers that management decided to re-introduce the fertiliser subsidy programme. The minority will be surprised to know that the very farmers they seem to be crying for have overwhelmingly embraced the programme.

“This will ensure that the fertilisers will be readily available at all sales outlets across the cocoa growing areas and interested farmers will buy and apply them accordingly. The free fertiliser policy created a lot of loopholes for diversion and smuggling of the inputs to the detriment of our cherished cocoa farmers. We again emphasise for the records that the fertiliser subsidy programme will make the inputs available and readily accessible to all cocoa farmers.”

Cocobod assured farmers that management was putting in place measures that will reduce over-dependence on foreign buyers in the determination of cocoa prices.

“Among these, Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire have started dialoguing to cooperate on measures to ensure better prices for cocoa. Key on the recent Joint Cooperation Meeting between the two countries held in Accra-Ghana was the need for both countries to ensure that at least 50 per cent of cocoa produced in their respective countries is processed locally,” the release added.

“The National Cocoa Consumption Campaign rolled out by the government of Ghana, which aims at boosting local consumption of cocoa, is also in motion. Cocobod is also exploiting the consumption of cocoa in emerging markets. All these measures are to reduce the volume of raw beans exported.”