Opposition NDC leader and 2020 flagbearer, H.E John Dramani Mahama has bemoaned the hardship cocoa farmers are grappling with under the Akufo-Addo administration.
The former president, who was addressing a crowd at Obeng Krom in the Ahafo region as part of his ‘Speak Out’ tour Tuesday, accused the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of “shortchanging” Ghanaian farmers with its policies.
Visibly disturbed Mahama said he was shocked at how farmers were being treated under the NPP government, saying cocoa farmers had become poorer than when he was in power.
He explained that the sale of fertilizers by the government to the poor farmers had had a toll on farmers, resulting in poor yield in the farms of citizens who were unable to buy adequate quantity of fertilizers.
“When we [NDC] were in government, I remember farmers were benefiting from our free fertilizer policy and it positively affected your yield and lives, however, this country has decided to sell these fertilizers to you in these hard times,” Mr Mahama said to the people in Akan.
He went on to say on his way to the area, he realised that most cocoa trees were dying, indicating that the government’s policies for cocoa farmers were not yielding results.
“I challenge the media to come to Ahafo and Western North and ask the farmers whether their lives are better than it was then [under my government],” he added.
Mr Mahama, who toured most of the cocoa growing areas in the Western North region lastb week, decried the impact of illegal mining also known as galamsey. To him, the activities of galamsey had heavily affected cocoa farming hence the reason some farmers sell off their plantations to be used for galamsey.
Expressing his disappointment in the the Akufo-Addo government’s fight against galamsey, Mr Mahama observed that the ruling NPP executives had taken over illegal mining in most parts of the country and proceeds used to finance the party.
He referred to the mysterious disappearance of seized excavators from illegal miners which were later found in the custody of some NPP executives as an affront to the development of the country.
“Today the galamsey is being done by NPP executives and they have seized excavators of non NPP members. They are sharing proceeds from the galamsey to their party executives across the country. But we are all Ghanaians who deserve better and should not be treated this way,” he said as he urged the residents to vote him back to power to continue with the good policies he had for them.
This comes after the Ranking Member of Parliament’s Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs Committee, Eric Opoku, had described the performance of the Akufo-Addo government in the agric sector as abysmal.
Describing the Akufo-Addo government as insensitive to the plights of the farmers, the former Brong-Ahafo regional minister said the government did not increase cocoa producer price for 2019 instead, it managed to deduct about GHS 319 million from a syndicated loan it took for the purchase of cocoa that year.
“Before the net FOB, the government has deducted 319 million cedis for the purchase of fertilisers for cocoa farmers and turn around to sell them to these farmers in bags that have the inscription ‘Not for sale’”, he told Battle Grounds host Oheneba Boama Bennie in an interview.
COCOBOD had announced that the Producer Price of cocoa for the 2018/2019 cocoa season would remain at GHS 475 per a 65kg bag despite a fall in the commodity’s price on the international market.
But Mr Opoku insisted the price could have been increased slightly if the government had good plans for farmers. He also criticised the government for selling fertilisers meant to be distributed freely to the farmers to help boost cocoa yield as it was done during the Mahama administration.
Mr Opoku who is the Member of Parliament (MP) for Asunafo South went on to criticise the policies the government had rolled out in the agric sector, claiming they have not helped the sector because their outcomes are not best for the farmers.
Mr Opoku said during the tenure of former President John Mahama, the government distributed free fertilisers to farmers that resulted in the country exporting almost a million metric tonnes of cocoa in 2017/2018. He also mentioned that upon all the “noise” about artificial pollination and the policies the government said it had introduced to the agric sector, the country’s cocoa production kept declining.
“They [the NPP government] have even said the next season it will reduce to 900,000 metric tonnes. Clearly they have conceded that their policies are not working,” he added.
To him, farmers in the country have lost confidence in the Nana Akufo-Addo led government, adding that “the way the NPP government is running the agric sector, many people are losing interest in farming.”
“From now till 2020 when these poor farmers will have the opportunity to vote this government out, we in the Minority have to speak for them,” he said as he pledged that the Minority will continue to have the farmers in the country at heart and project their plights for consideration.