The chief executive officer of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, has downplayed promises by the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) in its manifesto to tackle “fall armyworm infestation in the cocoa sector”.
On page 49 of its 2020 manifesto, launched on Monday, the NDC said if it is voted into power it will commence a programme to tackle the invasion of cocoa farms by fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda).
In paragraph 220.127.116.11 of the manifesto, the party says that “the next NDC government will resume a programme to tackle effectively the fall armyworms invasion of cocoa farms.”
However, speaking on The Asaase Breakfast Show on Thursday, Boahen Aidoo said that fall armyworms invade not cocoa farms, but rather maize and other food crops. It is evident, he said, that the NDC did not do enough research before compiling its manifesto and does not understand cocoa farming well enough.
“I’ve seen their manifesto. They are talking about even coming to tackle fall armyworms. There’s no record of fall armyworms in cocoa. It means they even don’t know, and this thing is in their manifesto.
“They don’t know that fall armyworms eat grass … If you have rice they’ll come and eat the grass. They eat maize, sorghum and not cocoa … and then you go and put this thing in your manifesto. It means you are ignorant.”
Again, on page 48 (paragraph 18.104.22.168), the NDC says: “The next NDC government will ensure the establishment of a pension scheme for cocoa farmers so they can enjoy pensions in their old age as already captured under the pensions sector.”
Boahen Aidoo said everything is set for the rollout of a pension scheme for Ghanaian cocoa farmers. The scheme will become fully operational in October, he said. The trustees have been constituted and the scheme will be launched in the new cocoa season.
“The farmer pension scheme President Akufo-Addo promised is coming and it will happen this year by 1 October. This is something we’ve communicated to the farmers a long time ago.
“We’ve finished everything. Now, the trustees have been constituted, everything is finished. We are waiting for 1 October because that’s what we communicated to the farmers … the new season is going to open with the announcement of the farmer pension scheme.
“It was difficult to do it, because there was no farmer database … it is part of the AfDB money we went for … The total amount is US$600 million and part of that amount is dedicated to the farmer database, which didn’t exist,” he said.
Boahen Aidoo said the government has introduced swift intervention to curb the national decline in cocoa production.
“So when we came, the first thing was to find an immediate solution to the declining production. We introduced … hand pollination and, with that, we more than tripled production, because hitherto on a tree, you can find just five pods, ten pods or a maximum 20 pods.
“But with hand pollination, we see as many as 100 pods and 200 pods. I even have some images of 1,800 pods per tree … We are taking farmers to a different level, from traditional to modern.”
“We’ve increased extension. Hitherto, it was one to 3,000 farmers. That’s what we came to meet, but today, it is one to 600 farmers, because we have knowledge that we ought [to help better the lives] of the farmers. The [Food and Agriculture Organisation] standard is one to 500 farmers. That’s an extraordinary performance,” he said.
Beef up processing
“If you look at the NPP’s 2016 manifesto, it indicated that when we came to power, we were going to process and reach up to not less done 50% of the cocoa beans produced in the country.
“At the time we came, processing was around 25% and we’ve been able to move it to 40%,” Boahen Aidoo said.
Ghana expects cocoa output of approximately 900,000 tonnes in the 2020/21 season, an increase of 5.8% on the forecast for 2019/20.