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Nov
18

WHY ARE GHANA COCOA FARMERS THE ONLY FARMERS WHO ARE THE “EMPLOYEES” OF THE GOVERNMENT?

Why Are Cocoa Farmers The Only Farmers Who Are The ‘Employees’ Of The Government?

By on November 16, 2013

Ghana never ceases to amaze me. I am thinking, in this instance, of the inability of our Governments to force through the completion of the greatest eyesore in the country – the 37-kilometre stretch of road that lies between
our two largest commercial centres, Accra and Kumasi.
 I first wrote about that road in an article entitled “THIS ROAD NEARLY MADE ME THROW UP!” in The Ghanaian Times of 28 July 2009 – that is, nearly FIVE YEARS AGO!
Yet, the road is still uncompleted! There is no excuse whatsoever for any President of this country to allow that road to continue to exist in its current condition for even two weeks. Let alone FIVE YEARS! The executive power wielded by the President is strong enough to enable him – in good faith – to move funds from other expenditures and apply them to the completion of that stretch of road. For its lack of completion constitutes a “national emergency” that must be attacked with unorthodox methods.
When a national disaster causes people to be killed; or food to become scarce in an area; or individuals to be marooned by floods, can anyone prevent the President from using funds to relieve their plight? No! Well, that stretch of road has killed many people in the five or more years that it has been left in its unbelievable condition.
Can anyone who sustains even minor injuries in a motor accident survive, if driven to hospital on that road? How much has the road helped to increase inflation in Accra, by causing many lorries carrying food from upcountry, to break down? Or run into a ditch? What about deterring the city people from carrying out social intercourse with their folks upcountry? Is it not a fact that the road prevents people from undertaking journeys that they would normally make at the drop of a hat?
Now, whereas the contemplation of such unconcern shown by people in authority can throw one into a deep depression, at the same time, one can come across amazing acts of compassion in the same Ghana. I can never stop praising the spirit I saw in the members of the Accra Spintex Road branch of the Rotary Club, who, in a matter of one week, mobilised enough resources to ensure the survival and comfort of an orphanage at Obensu, near Pokuaase. The interest aroused at the time, I understand, will be a continuing one and will be carried forward by the Rotarians, to ensure that the orphanage obtains new premises and competent staff.
Another good sign: on November 8, 2013, I read an article in the Daily Graphic written by Dr Owusu-Afriyie Akoto, MP for Kwadaso, that pleased me enormously. Entitled Raw deal for cocoa farmers in Ghana, Dr Owusu- Afriyie Akoto reported in the article that the Government had announced a producer price for cocoa farmers in the current 2013/14 crop season which, at GH¢3,392 per metric tonne, was “the same as that paid during the 2012/13 season.”
He noted that for the last nine years or so, producer prices had been raised at the beginning of every buying season. Indeed, there had been two instances where prices were revised upward within the buying season (2007/08 and 2009/10). …
“With rising inflation and a substantial depreciation of the domestic currency, the Cedi, the decision not to increase [this season’s]producer price means a sharp reduction in the real price and income of nearly one million cocoa farm families of this country,” Dr Akoto said.
He continued: “The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Hon C. A. Forson, was reported to have stated that the price of cocoa on the international market had fallen and hence the decision not to increase the cocoa producer price this year. [But] this explanation cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
“As had been the standard practice, Ghana sold [forward] the bulk of the 2011/12 harvest against prices prevailing on the international (London) trading months January-April, 2012. Similarly, it sold [forward] the bulk of the 2012/13 harvest against prices prevailing during the international (London) trading months January – April, 2013.
“The average price on the London Terminal Market (LIFFE) in the period January – April, 2012 was US$2,323 per metric tonne and that for January – April, 2013 was US$2,230. Hence, there was only a marginal decline of US$93 [4%] between the two periods.
“In international commodity trading terms, a marginal decline of four per cent is considered only a blip and it cannot be used as an excuse to deny nearly a million poor smallholding farmers their rightful livelihood. In fact, prices have been rising since the first quarter of 2013, and stood at US$2,760 in mid-October, 2013.
“… Since farmers are paid in the local currency, one should examine the exchange rate of the cedi against the US Dollar, the currency in which cocoa is traded on the international markets. …In October, 2012, the US Dollar was fetching GH¢1.50 and is currently fetching GH¢2.20 (October 2013). This represents a depreciation of the value of the cedi by 31.8 per cent. So compared to the movement of the dollar price on the international market, the farmer more than deserves an increase in the cedi price which the government pays for his cocoa.” Why was the Government denying poor cocoa farmers a deserved increase in their producer price? Dr Akoto wondered.
Well done, Dr Owusu-Afriyie Akoto. Please put your nimble mind to work to answer this question, too: why should the Government of Ghana continue the obnoxious, imperialist practice — begun over 100 years ago — of arrogating to itself, the right to stand as a middleman between the cocoa farmer and those who buy his produce? The Government allows plantain, yam, maize, cassava, animal farmers and fishermen to sell their product direct to the market that consumes their produce. Why discriminate against cocoa farmers?
How many contracts has the Government signed with farmers that turn them into virtual “employees” of the Government, which takes the produce of their labour at any price it wants to dictate to them, and sells it abroad and reaps in any profits for itself?
Is this infringement of the right of the farmers to sell the product of their labour, like other citizens, to whomever they like, constitutional?”
Over to you, Dr Owusu-Afriyie Akoto and your fellow lawmakers.
By Cameron Duodu
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