The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has said the politicisation of the cocoa sector was affecting the finances of the Board.
The absence of a holistic fertiliser trade policy irrespective of which political regime is in power, the Board said was leading the COCOBOD into avoidable debt.
Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, appearing before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament with other officials in Accra yesterday, said the situation had led to over GH¢72 million uncollected money from fertiliser sales to farmers in 2012.
The Auditor-General in the 2028 report on Public Boards and Corporations said the COCOBOD had incurred a debt of GH¢115,214,942 in fertiliser subsidy to farmers in the 2021/22 cocoa season.
Out of the amount, Mr Aidoo said GH¢42,436,476 had been retrieved.
“The retrieval of fertiliser sale to cocoa farmers has become very topical because of the politicisation of the sector,” he told the James Klutse Avedzi chaired Committee.
He said at the time the fertilisers were given to farmers, the government subsidised the input, but a change of regime in 2013 saw the new administration switching to free fertiliser for the farmers.
“Immediately that policy came into being, farmers who had collected fertilisers the precious year refused to pay. They also stayed away from the 2011/12 stock because a free system had been introduced. Since then, the farmers have resisted the payment of the amount,” he said.
“When we came in 2017, this amount was outstanding and we have since then found it very difficult to retrieve because the farmers have been told not to pay because the fertiliser is free.
“The fertilisers we have also given to them on subsidy, they still don’t want to pay because of the politicisation of the whole matter.
“We have put in place a debt collection unit to chase these monies but it’s not easy. We have put this before our Board as well,” a worried Mr Aidoo said.
According to him, the uncollected old stock eventually went bad adding to the debt.
Asked if the government should consider selling fertilisers to farmers at full cost, Mr Aidoo said that would not be advisable considering the purchasing power of the Ghanaian cocoa farmers.
“I support the subsidy regime in a sense that the ability of our farmers to pay has been very weak because if a farmer is producing 450 kilograms per hectare, less than three bags per acre, and you want to apply full cost it becomes difficult.
“So we have to still subsidise for the farmer to build himself up then you can apply full cost. We haven’t gotten there yet.”
The outfit he said was taking steps to improve the capacity of farmers moving their average harvest from 450 kilogrammes to 600 kilogrammes per hectare.
“We are aiming at 1000 kilogrammes per hectare and once we get there, every farmer will have the capacity to pay for the full cost but until we get there, I will prescribe subsidies even though you don’t get subs
Source: Ghanaian Times