The Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Ghana has set aside some €14 million to be used to enhance the activities of cocoa growers and stakeholders in the production value chain over the next four years.
The support scheme is expected to help improve the capacities of the crop farmers and other stakeholders to be able to increase cocoa production, which is needed to feed the Netherlands’s strong appetite for processed cocoa products.
Some of the money is to be used to continue the embassy’s cocoa rehabilitation and intensification programme, which started in 2013 and has since benefited some 40,000 farmers across the country.
Thanks to the programme, annual productivity levels of the beneficiary farmers have increased by 75 per cent to 300 per cent, the Netherlands Ambassador to Ghana, Mr Ronald Strikker, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS in Accra.
“This means good practices, better farming and more income for the farmer. In the end, it also means more cocoa for Ghana, which is good for the country because cocoa is an important foreign exchange earner,” he said.
Touching more lives
To help extend the benefits to more farmers, Mr Strikker said the embassy had resolved to continue with the programme till 2020, by which time it hopes to cover some 100,000 to 200,000 farmers.
But the previous scheme, the ambassador said the embassy was now introducing a financing element that would seek to address the challenges with access to credit suffered by cocoa farmers.
As a result, he said part of the €14 million will be loaned to farmers as soft loans through a financing mechanism that would be developed by the embassy and selected banks in the course of the four-year period.
The soft loans will seek to lighten the credit burdens of cocoa farmers and their value chain stakeholders, Mr Strikker said.
With interest rates above 30 per cent and banks generally shying away from financing agricultural projects, the ambassador said the Netherlands Embassy had realised that moderately priced funds would help expand the businesses of cocoa farmers hence the introduction of the credit scheme.
He said his outfit would soon roll out the details of the loan programme to interested persons and institutions.
The implementation of the financing scheme will be led by existing banks, Mr Striker said, explaining that it was not part of the embassy’s plans to create new institutions to carry out its programmes.
The Netherlands’s appetite for chocolate
The Netherlands is one of the top 10 chocolate consumers in the world, with annual consumption estimated to be around 10.4 pounds.
The country is also home to some of the globally renowned firms producing the product for the domestic and international market.
This makes the Netherlands an interested party in the welfare of cocoa farmers and countries that produce the crop.
And with much of Ghana’s premium cocoa ending up in factories in that country, Mr Strikker said the Netherlands was always interested in making sure that the crop farmers had good income and easy access to inputs.
He bemoaned the country’s low cocoa productivity numbers and expressed the hope that the embassy’s initiatives would help to reverse the trends.
Ghana currently produces some 250 kilogrammes (kg) to 450kg of cocoa per hectare compared to Indonesia (third largest producer), where yield per hectare averages 800kg. –GB