Mr Speaker, as I said earlier, I was the schedule officer for the development of these tree crops at the Ministry. And we listed a number of tree crops initially eight in number. We dropped two and it came to six, coconut inclusive. Deliberations started as to the developmental stages of each of the crops.
Mr Speaker, if we take coconut for instance, if one drives from Accra towards Western Region, one would realise that most of the coconut trees are diseased and got spoilt. So research is still underway struggling to, more or less, unravel and resolve this disease situation.
Mr Speaker, seed variety to even develop coconut is also a challenge. So, when the President launched the PERD programme in Dunkwa-on- Offin, Parliament was on recess but I drove to the place. Coconut was part of the six crops that were mentioned by the President. But finally, when we were coming out with this Bill, we dropped coconut and mango.
Personally, I went to the Ministry to question why mango was dropped and they said that the lack of working plan and money involved was such that they needed to drop mango for now, but it would come on board very soon. But for coconut, they were far off and that was why they dropped coconut.
Mr Speaker, I am not here to speak for the Ministry but none of the Hon Deputy Ministers is available, especially Hon Kennedy Nyarko who is in charge of tree crops, to defend this. I really do not have anything to say but I think it has to do with some financial implication. This is because
the Tree Crops Authority is to be established with a seed-fund by the Government and everything has been costed. I am told it is either GH¢5 million or US$5 million. I do not know where it would be coming from but that is the promise.
So if we add on more crops, it means that the calculation that was done with the seed-money to be given by Government would be put out of gear. That is my understanding and that is what I believe. That notwithstanding, the calculation in terms of value for money for coconut is enormous; you would not believe it.
If we sent a tonne of coconut outside, the value we would get from it - and even mango. The competitive advantage of coconut compared to other crops is very high. Except that the agricultural research and other things to even develop that to a stage where we could have an authority to regulate it is a bit too far.
Mr Speaker, the Authority is to come and regulate more or less, the more developed crops where people are operating haphazardly. Coconut is very good though it is operated by a certain niche within the agricultural market. Documents as to this is what we could work with and all that - when they brought in the oil palm research institutions, they brought in all the
technical people. The amount of money that they demanded to go and research into coconut to come out with these seedlings was huge.
So we said a certain amount of money should be found and given to the researchers to research into the varietal development of coconut because what we have now is not disease resistant. They grow the crops and diseases eat up the crops. Therefore they need to come out with a new variety that would be disease tolerant. Their main problem now is purely research funding to overcome that challenge.
So that is the reason coconut was dropped and it was agreed that we should find some money for the research to be well developed before we could come to a point where regulation could come in. If we take the four or five crops that have been mentioned, as for them, they are already well developed. Oil palm is everywhere; people are just operating anyhow and that is why the regulation is important.
It is the same with cashew, shea and rubber, but with coconut, we really need to do research to come out with varieties to fight the diseases that it has. With that, coconut has been placed on another pedestal. We have to look for funding to do