THE MINORITY Caucus in Parliament has accused government of political discrimination in the distribution of fertilizers to farmers across the country.
According to the Caucus, there is a lot of discrimination based on the political colour of the farmers before they could have fertilizers with “extensive reports of smuggling of fertilizers across our borders and the emergence of a huge black market in fertilizer and chemicals in this country belie the seriousness of this policy.”
“The reality on the ground is that, not much of the chemical inputs are reaching the farmers and for the little that reaches them, the farmers are made to make some payments for the inputs,” Dr. Akoto Owusu Afriyie, MP for Kwadaso claimed at a press conference on Monday.
The minority Caucus further stated that the inactions of government towards ensuring improvement in the cocoa sector has caused the loss of about US$600 million in the 2013 farming season.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) Members of Parliament (MPs) explained that for about three years, government had not paid production bonuses to the cocoa farmers hence they were not motivated enough.
“Contrary to the promise made by President Mahama to cocoa farmers during his visit to Tepa in the Ashanti Region last May 2014, no mention is made of payment of the outstanding bonuses in the 2nd October 2014 statement by the Minister of Finance,” they said.
Addressing a press conference in Accra on Monday, Dr. Akoto Owusu Afriyie, MP for Kwadaso said currently the recent policy introduced by government to supply fertilizers and other farm chemicals free of charge to cocoa farmers was not reaching the farmers.
Government recently announced a new producer price for cocoa farmers to GHC5, 520.00 per tonne from GHC3, 392.00 per tonne for the 2014/2015 season, which opened on Friday October 3, 2014. The new price is GHC345.00 per bag of 64kg.
The figure translates into GHC345 per bag of 64kg gross, representing about 75 percent of the net Free On Board (FOB) price.
But, Dr. Afriyie said “although this may seem generous in nominal terms, the increase is not anywhere near the quantum required to compensate farmers for the huge loss in incomes suffered as a result of the low price offered to farmers in the past three years.”
He further stated that Finance Minister Seth Terkper and President John Mahama gave conflicting percentage price increase of 75% and 70% respectively thereby raising questions as to who Ghanaians ought to believe.
According to him, the truth could only be ascertained if the government published the price for which the coming 2014/2015 cocoa crops was sold forward on the world market.
“We demand this information in the name of transparency and accountability to our long suffering cocoa farmers.”
The Kwadaso MP further noted that the producer price as a percentage of the FOB price had declined substantially over the past three years to as 31% in recent times adding that “it is in this context that we find it disappointing the new producer price of GHC345.00 per 64kg announced by government.”
He also stated that the lot of cocoa farmers keeps deteriorating yet it was their sweat which continued to keep the country surviving.
He added that monies allocated for the construction of cocoa roads were unjustifiably misdirected to the construction of urban roads whilst cocoa gets trapped in the hinterland because roads deteriorate badly and bags of cocoa cannot be evacuated.