The African Cocoa Coalition (ACC) has proposed a fund to build the capacity of cocoa farmers, improve infrastructure in cocoa growing areas and enhance farmers’ incomes.
ACC is an autonomous non-governmental conservation organisation formed in 2006 to promote total quality cocoa production in Africa.
The fund, the coalition said, should be raised by grinders, manufacturers of chocolate and confectionery because they enjoyed the largest returns along the cocoa value chain, Rev David Guba Kpelle, ACC Coordinator, told the Times in Accra yesterday.
He spoke to the paper after a National Roundtable on Sustainable Cocoa Economy in Ghana.
The roundtable attended by participants from Africa, Europe and America, was to enable the key stakeholders in the sector to be informed about the developments towards the attainment of a sustainable cocoa economy at the global level.
It was organised by four cocoa organisations namely ACC, COCOBOD, Tropical Cocoa Coalition and Amanjaro Ghana Limited.
A sustainable cocoa economy, the coalition said, was the situation “where persons investing time or monies in the supply chain would be able to earn a decent income themselves and their families work in good conditions, and in a manner which does not harm the environment.”
Rev Kpelle contended that the current status of the global cocoa economy was skewed towards favouring industry when it came to the benefit in the cocoa chain and said there were not enough incentives to encourage the youth to take over from the ageing cocoa farmers.
Currently there are about 800,000 cocoa farmers in Ghana.
He said farmers of producing countries, particularly in Ghana and Cote d‘Voire appeared to be the most vulnerable to the inequity in the distribution of the returns along the cocoa value chain.
“Cocoa farmers do not earn enough to support their livelihood and reinvest in the cocoa production.”
“Yet so much is demanded of them in terms of increased productivity and improvement in quality by industry and governments,” he said, and added that the global demand for cocoa was projected to reach about 4.3 million tonnes per year by 2012.
Mr Kpelle commended the government of Ghana for the numerous initiatives to improve the income level of cocoa farmers, citing its decision to give farmers more than 70 per cent of the global price per tone of cocoa.
Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, Acting Deputy Chief Executive of the COCOBOD, said in recent times there had been an increasing global awareness on the need to pursue development in a sustainable manner.
He said the 2001 International Cocoa Agreement, also encouraged member countries to give due consideration to the development of a sustainable cocoa economy.
“I believe that this roundtable being held today is timely and significant, because it will provide us an opportunity to discuss and pool our ideas towards measures that would ensure sustainable cocoa economy,’ he stated and urged participants to discuss the issues dispassionately and arrive at a consensus which will ensure the objective of the meeting was achieved.
The Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, in his key note address, said socially, cocoa played important role in livelihood and stability of farming communities in terms of job creation and distribution of income among rural communities.
“Market developments which negatively affect the interests of farmers tend to move people especially, the youth to the urban centers in search of non-existent jobs,” he states, noting “this has the tendency to disrupt production processes and force farmers to fall on child labour.”
Dr Duffuor said low productivity and falling prices put undue pressure on the environment as farmers were forced to expand production to new areas including forest lands.
Despite the fact that cocoa production meant so much to the economy, Dr Duffuor said government alone could not tackle the challenges in the sector and called for a public/private partnership especially in the area of extension services.