Western Regional Minister-designate, Dr Kwaku Afriyie has expressed dissatisfaction with what he described as the undue financial burden placed on cocoa farmers by government.
He said the concept of cocoa roads in which the proceeds of cocoa farmers are used in constructing roads leading to communities that grow the cash crop is nothing more than an exploitation of the farmers.
The Sefwi Wiawso Constituency Member of Parliament (MP) said the farmers have to be freed from any financial commitment since they have enough responsibility on them.
“In terms of financing roads, it is unfair to look at one segment of the society. The farmers pay taxes [and] I suspect that if we do our math we are over taxed,” Dr Afriyie told members of Parliament’s Appointments Committee Tuesday.
About 70 percent of Ghana’s population live in rural areas with a sizable number being cocoa farmers in six Regions such as Ashanti, Eastern, Central, Western, Brong Ahafo and Volta.
A road leading to a cocoa growing community in Ghana
Statistics have it that the cash crop single handedly contributes about 25 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The crop is exported to countries in Europe and America where it is processed into finished products such as chocolate, liquor, soap, body cream and confectionaries such as milo.
However, the farmers face difficulties in the transportation of their cocoa beans from the producing areas to the ports as well as the movement of people in those areas.
In a sharp response to the challenges, the government set up a Cocoa Road Fund which was a collaborative project between the Roads and Highways Ministry and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to undertake road infrastructure in cocoa growing areas.
In 2015 the erstwhile National Democratic Congress (NDC) government launched a $150 million project to improve road infrastructure of cocoa growing areas in the country.
A cocoa pod
Notable roads targeted included the 9km Proso-Anhwiafutu Junction Road in the Juaboso District in the Western Region, Juaboso Junction-Bonsu Nkwanta Feeder Road and 33km Berekum-Seikwa Road.
But Dr Afriyie who himself is a farmer said the cocoa roads which tap into proceeds of the cash crop is an unfair treatment of the growers who are predominantly poor.
“Why don’t they appropriate half of Members of Parliament (MPs) [salary] for MP roads?” he asked, adding the money earmarked for the cocoa roads has to be given to the farmers.
The MP said cocoa has become a “political crop” in the country in that the welfare of farmers depends on how generous the government would be in terms of bonuses paid them.
With an air of seriousness around him, Dr Afriyie said, “Cocoa is the most democratic crop in the world…that is the way my mind works.”