Mr Speaker, thank you for the opportunity. I rise to contribute to the Statement on the cocoa sector by Hon Alex Tetteh Djornobua, Member of Parliament for Sefwi Akontombra.
Mr Speaker, Sefwi Wiawso Consti- tuency shares a boundary with Akontombra. The Statement raises very fundamental questions. The fundamental problem with the cocoa sector is market manipulation by the big players out there. And that is the “E= MC2” of all our problems.
I say this because, some 20 years ago, if one ate a bar of chocolate, about 20 per cent of that value came to us the farmers. Now, it is only six per cent that came to us. The market has been so manipulated that the big players in the downstream end of the industry earn a lot more than has been the historical norm.
Mr Speaker, currently, we are dealing with a huge debt of US$14 billion per annum. And the last time that I checked, less than US$4 billion came to the primary producers.
Mr Speaker, this manipulation has taken a turn which has had international repercussions. If one goes to Bahia in
Brazil, people are running away from cocoa. If one goes to Indonesia, cocoa has become the crop of the poor man. Malaysia has ceased to be a significant producer of cocoa because the bidding class have jettisoned cocoa and the same is happening in Ghana.
Mr Speaker, it also happened in Nigeria. That was accelerated by the discovery of oil. Sometimes, I shudder to think why we should be so obsessed with producing so much cocoa.
This is because, the paradox is that, if one produces one million metric tonnes of cocoa, the market would be depressed and we the farmers would become poorer. So, it is paradoxical. But the other side of the equation is that, West Africa produces on annual basis some 70 per cent of the cocoa crop in the world.
So, I would urge my Government, that while we do not exactly do manipulation, when we join forces — We can join the discourse with those at the end of the value chain so that we can strengthen the market. If we want the market to work well as we believe, then so be it. On the other hand, if there is going to be a cartel of manufacturers, then there should be a cartel of producers.
This is because, currently, our policy is pointing to what I call securing market share and not getting value for the cocoa farmer. This is because, if we produce 1.5 million metric tonnes now, as far as we the farmers are concerned, our income would collapse, and it is happening now.
Only last year — I have not seen the aggregate yet, but la Cote d'Ivoire produced close to two million metric tonnes or they have the capacity to produce more. So, we should sit down with them and carve out the market, otherwise, there can be no other middle way.
Mr Speaker, the other side of the equation is that, if we cast our minds back to some 30 years ago — and we are all witnesses to it, if we talked about a cocoa farmer, what conjured in a person's mind was somebody who was rich. Then we have the permanent type of poor cocoa farmer.
So, in the interim, I say that the regulators should look at efficiency and we would want to see the quantum of money which is going to the regulators from the management.
Mr Speaker, I am aware that a Minister of State — But during my vetting, I said that the idea of earmarking moneys of cocoa farmers to do infrastructure, specifically roads, is discriminatory. We have built all sorts of infrastructures and still, cocoa farmers are inordinately taxed to do roads. I do not get it. It is discriminatory.
And so, at the peril of a critique in my own government, I would want to wager that, that policy would have to be looked at. Yes, cocoa roads would have to be done, but the financing should come from other sources. Maybe, the time has come for us Parliamentarians to contribute towards cocoa roads because the burden on cocoa farmers is just too much.
Mr Speaker, I have a lot to say, but I would want to end by saying that every problem brings in its way a unique opportunity. We have to sit down with our brothers in the sub-region. This is because I noticed that cocoa is a unique crop. In fact it can only be grown between latitude seven degrees on either side of the equator.
And even though Australia tried to experiment in cocoa growing in
Queensland in Northern Australia, it was a woeful failure. So, in anything that we do by addressing the market situation, we also owe it a duty to reduce the burden on cocoa farmers.
Mr Speaker, the industry, in spite of all the advances that have been made elsewhere, is fraught with primitive farming practices. I shudder to think that in the 21st Century, we still use our hands to crack cocoa pods while there exists technology out there. Some are even for free.
With the Australian example that I referred to, one of the products was that they were able to manufacture a motorised pod-cracking machinery. I have done a search and the patent is even for free.
So, if Ghana could contact our friends in Australia, we could have this machine for free and it would reduce the drudgery.
Mr Speaker, finally, one of the drudgery in the cocoa sector is the lack of development in — beyond feeder roads, we have farm tracts because of soil fertility that my Hon Colleague in Sefwi Akontombra referred to.
Mr Speaker, most of the fertile cocoa farms are far away from the cocoa weighing centres. The time has now come for us to develop farm tracks so that aboboyaa (tricycles) and other implements can traverse the farms and reduce drudgery on us as cocoa farmers.
Mr Speaker, I have a lot to say but with this submission, I beg to take my seat.