Testimony 11 - Gamor Wilson (cocoa farmer at New Koforidua)
In my opinion, our situation as cocoa farmers can be best looked at by considering the following factors; Social factors, cost of living, nature of the crop, L.B.C’s (Middle Men and Buying Agencies), Government policies and World policies
Though farmers in general provide food and life for communities and nations as a whole they are the least respected and acknowledged in society. We receive the poor part of everything, our communities is the least developed in infrastructure and we are the least educated. This has made farmers develop a very low esteem and rejected in society. This on its self does not motivate them to produce more to better their living conditions.
The cost of living is always on the ascendancy but farmers are not supported to cope up with this trend as instead of people paying more for their produce, they continue to receive less. All that people say is why not produce more as if that is a solution, forgetting that you need more land to cultivate more, you need more money to do that you need more money for maintenance…But after going through that hurdle what happens? As the crop becomes abundant people of commerce take advantage and pay less for the produce.
Looking at nature of cocoa, cocoa cultivation is a long term investment. before we had the hybrid cocoa which now starts bearing fruits at year 3, the Tetteh Quarshie breed took as long as 6 years before bearing fruits. This implied that one had to invest and wait for 3 to 5 years before he/she could earn income.
The middle men who buy the cocoa from us that is the Licensed Buying Companies (LBC’s) take advantage of our illiteracy and use their tools of trade to cheat us especially with their weighing scales which are adjusted to read less. They also take advantage of the seasonal nature of the crop to a times create artificial shortage of funds to pay less for the crop.
From tradition the Government is not creating the enabling environment for farmers. Considering the fact that farmers depend permanently on cocoa for our livelihood, yet we e have very little influence in determining prices. The Government does not release the seed fund is in time to farmers even when they have declared open the buying season and during this period farmers lose a lot since they are forced to sell their produce for less at time they have to exchange their produce for shylock loans by some opportunists.
The Government is always happy to receive its commission on the export of cocoa and does not release all the market price value of the cocoa to the farmers but does very little to assist farmers with inputs. And as it has always been lack of farm inputs to support high yields usually results in low output than expected not withstanding the physical input.
It is very unfortunate that at the World front too farmers are given raw deals. I have been wondering who has been fixing the price of cocoa at the world market. We are not adequately compensated for our efforts and we live form hand to mouth all the time. My appeal here is to consumers I am pleading with consumers to do more to support us by advocating paying more for the delicacies from cocoa so that the producers of cocoa are paid a fair price.
As I conclude I will like to say that the solution therefore is not to produce more but the farmers input in the form of investment should be taken into consideration and they should be given a big say as to how much their produce should sell for. On the global front I think farmers should all unite and fight together.