Bawumia chases votes in cocoa farms

Bawumia-cocoafarmsVice presidential candidate of the opposition New Patriotic Party (NPP), Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia, has been thrown into the thickest forests in the cocoa growing areas of the Western Region by his boss, Nana Akufo-Addo, to canvass for votes for the party.

Nana Addo himself has started his 2016 campaign only in the cities, especially Ashanti Region- the party’s stronghold- spending three weekends in a roll.

The former deputy governor of the Bank of Ghana (BoG) appears to be perfecting the late President John Evans Atta Mills’ “door to door” campaign by moving from one cocoa farm to another begging for votes for the November 7, 2016, polls.

So far, out of the six regions where the cash crop is widely grown, Dr. Bawumia has based in the Western Region, where he lashed out at the governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) for “destroying” the cocoa sector.

He promised that a future Akufo-Addo government will revive the cocoa sector by increasing yields, paying higher prices and juicy bonuses. However, the farmers were less enthusiastic towards his campaign promise. Some could hardly make him out.

The economist-turned-politician tactically chose the dry season to visit the farms taking pictures obviously to portray a message of dying cocoa trees symbolizing a dire situation. In one such interaction with farmers, he said “If you look at this farm behind us, most of the Cocoa trees are dying. The Cocoa industry itself in Ghana is collapsing. If you look at the Cocoa Sector in the Ivory Coast, and you look at Ghana, there is a clear difference in how the sector is going.”

Dr. Bawumia went on, “Under the NPP, our view is that for Ghana to do well, cocoa must do well. It is because of this that we introduced the mass spraying programme and fertilizer subsidy program.”

In some villages where he walked to cocoa farmers and their families in their homes, Dr. Bawumia was seen shaking hands with some of the men and women who looked lost as to who he was.

On some of the roads Dr. Bawumia used which he portrayed as unmotorable, pictures released by his own team showed roads and bridges being constructed as part of John Mahama’s US$150 million Cocoa Roads Projects just next to the supposed bad road he claimed he travelled on.

It will be recalled that Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) responded to the cry of cocoa farmers by resuming, the annual “Mass Cocoa Spraying” exercise in cocoa growing areas throughout the country for the 2013/14 cocoa season.

It is also distributing free fertilizers to farmers across the country, under the instrumentality of COCOBOD Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Stephen Opuni.

Sometime last year, Cocoa farmers in the Western, Brong Ahafo, Ashanti, Eastern, Central and Volta regions, received the news of free fertilizer, free insecticide and mass sparing by COCOBOD with excitement which would see an increment in yields, purchase price, as well as bonuses. The exercise commenced in the Western Region; same place Dr. Bawumia had taken his campaign.

The report also said the Board put in place “checks and balances” to prevent crooks who hide behind the institutions and political parties to perpetuate crimes against farmers by diverting fertilizers, as well as insecticides.

Insiders told “The Herald” that some officers, who have been implicated in one report or the other, were booted out of office while others were transferred from their comfort zones.

Over one hundred cocoa nurseries have been opened across the country and are nursing 50 million high yielding hybrid cocoa seedlings for free distribution to all cocoa farmers; something Cote D’ Ivoire did nearly 30 years ago. COCOBOD has engaged the services of a huge number of casual labourers in this regard. Some of them are being encouraged to venture into the lucrative cocoa farming.

Sometime last year, COCOBOD, announced the increment of its scholarships to the children of cocoa farmers in various public Senior High Schools (SHS) from 3,500 to 5,000 students annually.

The increment was to enable more children of cocoa farmers to have access to secondary education, and it takes effect from the 2014/15 academic year, according to the Deputy Administrative Manager of COCOBOD Scholarship Scheme, Joe Baah; while speaking at a cocoa farmers’ forum in the Osino District.

He was speaking on cocoa health and good farming methods at Akyem Sekyere near Anyinam in the Eastern Region.

Mr. Joe Baah announced that forms for the scholarship had been sent to the Quality Control Division offices for collection by cocoa farmers on behalf of their wards. The scholarship forms had also been sent to public Senior High Schools.

On smuggling of Ghana’s quality cocoa beans to neighbouring countries like Ivory Coast, the COCOBOD had put in place stringent measures to reduce the phenomenon. The Board is also busily chasing and collecting huge debts owed it by cocoa beans buyers; both Ghanaians and foreigners.

Meanwhile, government has also responded to Dr. Bawumia’s claim that under the watch of government the cocoa sector was dying. Speaking in an interview with Citi News, a Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Murtala Mohammed, said the figures produced by COCOBOD did not support the case of Dr. Bawumia. He insisted that “Dr. Bawumia doesn’t know what he is talking about.”

“He should have been able to tell us that this year, this is the quantity of cocoa that has been produced and if you look at the quantity of the cocoa that has been produced as compared to the so called 700,000 he would have realised that it’s not a point that he should make publicly,” he argued.

Murtala Mohammed argued that under the NPP, fertilizers were sold to cocoa farmers “and you even need a chit to be able to buy it” but under the NDC government such farm inputs “are given to farmers for free.”

“So the farmers know which government has given them so much attention and which government indeed sought their interest. It’s not about what Dr. Bawumia is saying…you don’t need any rocket science to tell you that this government has given so much attention and interest in the welfare of cocoa farmers than the NPP,” he added.

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