Cocoa purchases in the Volta Region have been on the decline due to cocoa smuggling, in spite of the interventions made by the Government over the years to revamp the industry in the region.
The Volta Regional Manager of the Produce Buying Company (PBC), Mr Prosper Zegbla, has lamented that from its peak in the 1999/2000 season when the region recorded over 11,000 tonnes, purchases have continuously dwindled to as low as 400 tonnes in 2009/10 season.
The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), however, realising the demise of the cocoa industry in the region due to various factors, introduced various interventions such as the hybrid cocoa seeds and mass spraying exercise to rejuvenate the farms.
Apart from that, COCOBOD has also subsidised the cost of fertilisers, rehabilitated or constructed roads to the cocoa growing areas, introduced the Akuafo cheque system and the scholarships scheme for children of cocoa farmers.
Mr Zegbla said cocoa smuggling was the major factor contributing to the low purchases in the region, adding that the smuggling activities were undertaken by agents from the Republic of Togo, who enticed the farmers in the rural areas with ready cash, saving them from having to carry their heavy produce over long distances to the buying centre.
“These people are ready to buy the cocoa beans fresh from the pods and at higher prices than offered by the COCOBOD,” he said.
The Regional Manager, for instance, said the Togolese agents bought a bag of dried cocoa beans for between GH¢ 220 and GH¢240 as against the GH¢ 138 paid by COCOBOD.
Mr Zegbla appealed to cocoa farmers in the region to reciprocate the Government’s efforts to keep the farmers alive by selling their produce to the PBC and its registered agents.
He said the Government took into account all their needs when introducing the interventions and packages to keep them going. He also urged the farmers to remember that the Government would introduce more juicy packages if they sold more of their produce to the PBC.