The Chief Executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board, Mr. Joseph Boahen Aidoo,  has hinted that  Cocobod’s School Feeding Secretariat and partners in the industry have firmed up modalities for a smooth take- off of the introduction of chocolate drinks into the School Feeding programme as a means of promoting the consumption of cocoa locally.

He made this known during a speech at the Jubilee Park, Sunyani as part of the activities marking this year’s Cocoa Producers’ Alliance Day.

The theme for the celebration is “Cocoa Production for Wealth and Health”.

“Since children in basic schools are in their formative years, we believe introducing them to cocoa consumption at this age would not only help them to develop a lasting taste for cocoa consumption, but stay healthier”.

He noted that to build a Ghana beyond aid,we need to grow what we eat,eat what we grow and export the excess to create wealth, adding that given the numerous benefits of cocoa, if we grow more of it,eat more of it and export the rest,we would create wealth as well as improve the health status of the populace, thus serving as a catalyst in our collective resolve to build a Ghana beyond aid.

According to the Chief Executive,he took over the affairs of Cocobod when the productivity of  cocoa farms were very low, below 400 kilos per hectare and farmers were discouraged to invest in their cocoa farms.

However, in consultation with government, Cocobod decided to implement the Productivity Enhancement Programme,(PEP’s) which included hand pollination, pruning,rehabilitation, irrigation, fertilizer application and disease and pest control.

Mr. Boahen further stated that “these have improved productivity of cocoa farms to current levels of 500 kilos per hectare, it is our objective to increase our productivity to at least,1,000 per hectare by 2021”.

The Chief Executive implored cocoa farmers to adhere strictly to  good agronomic practices and adopt the ( PEP’s), which will consequently facilitate sustainable increase in yields and improve farmer income.

Not all,he said the recent launch of the farmer co-operatives in the cocoa sector re-affirm Cocobod’s commitment to making farmer Co-operative a channel for the implementation of the PEP’s and spoke with the optimism that, farmers will join Co-operatives and play their roles in making such Co-operatives reliable and formidable.

Furthermore,the smooth talking Chief Executive announced that Cocobod is arranging with Licensed Buying Companies to acquire electronic weighing scales for cocoa purchases to curb the manipulation of scales by Purchasing Clerks to the detriment of farmers.

“We are reliably informed that such scales cannot be tampered with. We are confident the decision will lessen the extent of cheating perpetrated by purchasing clerks and guarantee farmers of their deserved income”.

On the rampant use of chemicals to control weeds, which has resulted in complaints by partners in the cocoa industry about  chemical residue in cocoa beans, Mr.Boahen- Aidoo declared that ” we have concluded on the purchase of motorised slashers for distribution through Farmer Co-operatives to farmers as part of the efforts to do away with the rampant use of harmful chemicals to control weeds on farms”.

He revealed that the government through Cocobod is cutting and treating cocoa trees diseased by  cocoa swollen shoot viral disease(CSSVD) through the rehabilitation programme, noting that the extent of devastation caused by the CSSVD is more than Cocobod was made to understand by statistics, especially, in the Western North Regions as a some communities have lost their entire cocoa landscape”.

” I commend the Sefwi Wiawso  Youth In Cocoa Production Cooperative for providing replanting services to farms under treatment.It was easier dealing with such a self sustaining Cooperative in the Region in the provision of those essential services”.

On Ghana’s effort to secure a fair and remunerative producer price income for farmers, Mr. Boahen- Aidoo  said, significant strides have been made, as the quest for buyers to pay a  Living Income Differential (LID) of

400 Dollars Per tonne of cocoa will provide a relief to the hard working cocoa farmer and bridge the income gap.

The Chief Executive lastly called on the collective support of players in the cocoa industry ie. Buyers, Traders, Agro dealers,Hauliers and our governments as Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire agree on the Living Income Differential as the most appropriate price mechanism for appropriate trade henceforth.

“This new and unprecedented trade arrangement has become necessary to provide a safeguard for farmers’ income,’ he concluded.