To Reveal Cost Of Tree Cutting Exercise
The Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Joseph Boahen Aidoo, has been challenged to disclose Ghana’s financial commitment to the joint exercise between the country and its western neighbour; Cote D’Ivoire in fighting the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) Control.
There is suspicion about the programme because the expenditure is yet to be known, and insiders argue this is going to create an avenue for “chop chop”; a pseudonym for corruption.
The exercise, would require the farmers to cut down their cocoa trees for new ones to be planted with the modernised technology that is being introduced by government.
However, they want to know which company has been contracted to cut down the diseased-trees and at what cost to the COCOBOD. They wish to know the owners of the companies insisting that there’s a huge presence of the ruling party elements with doubtful qualifications involved in the exercise.
They explained that COCOBOD does not have the workforce to move from the hundreds of hectares of cocoa farms to cut down the disease crops, slash and burn them. They also wish to know how this company or companies were selected to embark on the exercise doubting whether there was competitive bidding to get value for money.
They also wish to know how much money has been earmarked for the replanting of the seedlings, explaining that COCOBOD is cash-strapped, and things of this nature must be addressed within a known budget fearing inflated budget to put free money in the pockets of some influential individuals.
Ghana and Cote D’Ivoire launched a joint action to step up efforts at fighting the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) Control Programme at Pilla 34 and Manzanouan, both border towns in the Western North Cocoa Region.
Speaking at the launch, COCOBOD CEO, disclosed that about 40 percent of Ghana’s cocoa tree stock was unproductive posing serious economic threat to cocoa farmers and the country as a whole adding, “we are pleading with you the farmers to allow us to cut down all the cocoa trees to plant new seedlings”.
According to him, out of the affected trees, 17percent is diseased while 23 percent is moribund and overage.
Hon. Boahen Aidoo further said the Western and Eastern regions are so far the most endemic regions accounting for approximately 68 percent infection rate making the situation very alarming thereby requiring aggressive steps to control the spread of the disease in cocoa farms.
According to the Chief Executive, the decision by the previous administration to let cocoa farmers cut and treat their diseased farms some years ago did very little in combating the menace thereby contributing to the extensive outbreak of the virus which has required a complete felling of the trees for new ones to be planted.
“When the trees are infected and you plant the young seedlings under it, the entire plantation would be affected. Since the disease is spread by air when all farmers cut their trees and one refuses to, all the others would be affected since the air will spread it across the other farms,” he pointed out.
The former Western regional minister also explained that the Western Region which is so far the leading producer of cocoa must not be left to the mercy of the CSSVD and announced that a new scheme of the programme will provide incentive package for farmers and landlords during the implementation to enable them cope with the loss suffered during the exercise.
He said, the staff of COCOBOD, have been trained with the requisite expertise to treat identified farms and are going to start with 10,000 hectares of infected farms out of 680,000 hectares.
The former Amenfi East MP, was optimistic that cocoa farmers will support extension officers to assist them to treat their farms as the improved method they are introducing will increase yield.
“During my tour of the Brong Ahafo, we were able to count 800 beans on one cocoa plant due to the modernized form of planting we have introduced”, he said.
Boahen Aidoo, said Ghana has collaborated with Cote D’Ivoire to fight the disease because the two countries which control about 60 percent of the global cocoa stock have in recent times stepped up efforts to cooperate in the areas of technical and joint actions to promote sustainable cocoa economy as a major step to protect the fortunes of the cash crop.
The Chief Executive also said the cocoa roads have delayed due to the debt they inherited from the previous administration but they have secured funds from the central bank to defray the contractors for work to continue.
”We inherited a debt of GH¢3.5 billion to be paid on the cocoa roads. The contractors have sued COCOBOD over the debt owed them. We need to pay them but there is no money so we had to borrow from the Bank of Ghana to pay the contractors”, he claimed.
The Director General of the Le Conseil du Cafe and Cacao CCC, M. Kone Ibrahima, speaking on behalf of the Ivorian government and cocoa farmers lauded the joint initiative and said the cooperation was necessary to sustain the industry.
He added that about 100,000 hectares of infected farms in Cote D’Ivoire will be cut and treated and called on the security personnel, farmers and all and sundry to help in the control of CSSVD which has become a cross-border issue affecting cocoa production in both countries.
A joint demonstration exercise on the CSSVD control processes was done by trained operators from both countries at two different infected farms to symbolize the official launch by both countries.