Delivering a keynote address at the World Cocoa Federation (WCF) partnership meetings in Washington yesterday, Mr Aidoo stated: “A decent price that enables farmers to live a life of dignity, a price that is capable of attracting and maintaining the next generation of cocoa farmers is the underlying meaning of sustainability.”
According to him, the annual income from cocoa production was not enough to cater for farmers, adding that the situation in Ghana had become more susceptible owing to the temptation to sell cocoa farms to ‘cash-ready’ illegal artisanal miners for a better income.
“This would require remunerative prices and productivity enhancing initiatives at a rate that maintains a desirable demand-supply balance.”
He also mentioned: “In Ghana, we are tackling this challenge head-on. The aging population of our cocoa farmers and the onslaught of ‘galamsey’ put the future of Ghana’s cocoa industry at risk. It is to partly address these problems that COCOBOD has resorted to efficiency and productivity-enhancing interventions.”
On the theme, “Accelerating sustainability through technology and innovation,” he said the varied level of commitment to achieving the foregoing differed among stakeholders and perhaps was one of the biggest challenges in cocoa sustainability.
He said the government of Ghana was “going to scale up the hand pollination programme this 2017/18 crop year.
“In addition, we have expanded cocoa extension coverage. We have opened discussions with our partners to expand the use of ICT in cocoa extension.”
On irrigation, he said government had started piloting small-scale irrigation to optimize farm yield and improve upon bean sizes.
“We have intensified our campaign for cocoa agro-forestry and organic cocoa farming,” he revealed, adding that COCOBOD, in partnership with the private sector, would soon introduce motorized slashes for weeding and motorized pruners for the pruning of cocoa trees and removal of mistletoes.
Touching on incentivizing the farm rehabilitation programme, he said neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire was facing the same problem.
In the light of this, he said the two countries had jointly put in a request for funding from the African Development Bank.
“The sooner the funding the better for Ghana, else I am afraid we may lose a sizeable amount of our cocoa farmland to galamsey.
In fact, in 2016, the combined net sales of the top four cocoa processing companies in the world was almost twice the combined GDP of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire who produce 60 percent of the world’s cocoa.
“Prices are the best fertilizer for improving livelihoods. Cocoa prices send signals to farmers as to the amount of time and labour to invest in cocoa production. Thus, low prices constitute a major threat to the sustainability of the industry.
“I therefore charge members of the global cocoa fraternity here gathered, whether as producers, processors, manufacturers, bankers, financiers, speculators, hedgers, concerned CSOs, NGOs, or consumers of cocoa, to help use our positions and resources to address this concern.”
Chocolate has been the flagship of cocoa but is losing grounds in the conventional markets. Gradually and steadily Cocoa Butter Equivalents (CBEs) are being pushed to displace cocoa in chocolates, knowing very well that what cocoa can accomplish, the CBEs cannot match.
“This is a great worry to us producers. It is a market trite that whereas the price of cocoa has drastically declined on the international market, the proportion of cocoa content in chocolates have either remained the same or reduced in the name of CBEs. The bar of chocolate has also remained the same or shrunk in relative price terms. There cannot be sustainability in the global cocoa economy if consumers continue to be short-changed this way.
“I, therefore, challenge our processors and manufacturers to come out with innovative chocolates and cocoa products that address the needs and the taste of everybody – the young and the old.”