Address by The President Akufo-Addo, On The Occasion of World Cocoa Day and Celebration of The 70th Anniversary of Ghana Cocoa Board

Address by The President Akufo-Addo, On The Occasion of World Cocoa Day and Celebration of The 70th Anniversary of Ghana Cocoa Board

We are gathered here in Oseikrom, Kumasi, capital of the great Asante Kingdom, to mark World Cocoa Day, and, in doing so, celebrate the hundreds of thousands of cocoa farmers across the country who are responsible for the production of a crop, that has, for over a century, been the mainstay of the economy of our country. We are here, also, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the Ghana Cocoa Board, the organisation mandated to oversee the production, research, extension, internal and external marketing, and quality control of our cocoa industry. On behalf of the Ghanaian people, and its government, I say a big ayekoo to our hard working cocoa farmers, and an equally big ayekoo to the Board of Directors, Management and Staff of COCOBOD on this milestone.

On such an occasion, we must acknowledge with gratitude the work of the past generations of cocoa farmers who were responsible for the growth of the cocoa industry. In their hundreds and hundreds of thousands, they worked to provide us the income with which we have built our nation’s infrastructure and its most important educational institutions. We cannot, of course, tell the history of Ghana’s cocoa without mention of the legendary Ghanaian, Tetteh Quarshie, through whose efforts the cocoa industry was established and nurtured.

We all know of the story of how he, in 1870, undertook a voyage to the then Spanish colony of the island of Fernando Po, now the island of Bioko, in Equatorial Guinea. He returned to Ghana six years later with several cocoa beans, and planted them at Akuapem Mampong with some success. Friends and relatives also undertook the planting of cocoa when pods were distributed to them, and soon other farmers followed suit. Thus was born the greatest industry that Ghanaians have so far built.

We must, at such a time, recollect also those great patriots who led the agitation, in the Gold Coast, in seeking just and fair rewards for our cocoa farmers, an agitation that resulted, eventually, in the establishment of the Cocoa Marketing Board. By 1935, 60 years after the arrival of Tetteh Quarshie from Fernando Po, our farmers were supplying half of the world’s tonnage of cocoa. As was the order of those times, they did not have any say in the price paid for their products. When world cocoa prices began to slump, most of the European firms, who purchased cocoa, formed a ‘Pool’ to agree on the price to be paid for cocoa. This ‘Pool’ was viewed with great suspicion by the farmers, and with the co-operation of chiefs, and advice from persons like Dr. Joseph Boakye Danquah and the other nationalists, the farmers decided to boycott the ‘Pool’, and refused to sell their cocoa to them. Dr. Danquah wrote an account of the boycott in a pamphlet titled “The Liberty of the Subject”. It was largely the agitation led by Dr Danquah which brought about the appointment of the Nowell Commission in 1937. Indeed, the recommendations of the Nowell Commission eventually led to the establishment of the Cocoa Marketing Board in 1947.

For his efforts, on 13th July, 1946, the farmers presented Dr Danquah with a Commendatory and Acclamatory Address at Nsawam for showing them the way to prosperity. They referred to him as Akuafo KaneaThe Light of the Farmers – for his role in seeking a better welfare for them.

Seven years after the establishment of the Cocoa Marketing Board, the Hall Council of University College of the Gold Coast, now University of Ghana, decided to name the newly constructed Hall of Residence, Akuafo Hall, in appreciation of the generous gesture of the farmers of the then Gold Coast who, through the Cocoa Marketing Board, contributed considerable sums of money for the establishment of Akuafo Hall as a Hall of Residence. These farmers also contributed to other structural works for the University College of the Gold Coast in a project which was spearheaded by Dr. Danquah. This is part of the monumental contribution of cocoa farmers to the development of our country, and I think it appropriate that, on this occasion, we recollect these facts, in order to give credit to those to whom credit is due.

Through the years, our cocoa industry has suffered many highs and many lows. From being the largest producer of cocoa in the world, at one point in time in our history, we have had to deal with outbreaks of diseases that attacked cocoa trees, and with declines in production in the 60s and 70s. We even had to deal with a near collapse of the industry in the 80s. Cocoa production began its recovery in the 90s, and, from 2001 to 2003, the first three years in office of that outstanding Ghanaian statesman, the former President of the Republic, His Excellency John Agyekum Kufuor, cocoa production nearly doubled over the figures witnessed in the 90s. The policies the Kufuor-led NPP government put in place, such as the mass cocoa spraying exercise, ensured that, as projected, by 2011, we produced one million metric tons of cocoa. Unfortunately, we have since gone downhill.

I am confident, however, that with the reintroduction of the Cocoa Diseases and Pest Control Programme (CODAPEC), otherwise known as mass cocoa spraying exercise, on 7th August, 2017, at Dansokrom in Sefwi Wiawso, together with the provision of subsidised fertilizer to farmers, we will regain our pride of place in the cocoa industry. Again, as part of measures to improve productivity, the Ministry of Finance no longer exercises oversight ministerial responsibility over the cocoa industry, which has been the previous practice. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture is now responsible for all matters relating to the cocoa industry, a step which aids in the effective formulation of the relevant, coherent policies required for boosting agricultural productivity, including cocoa productivity.

Ladies and gentlemen, today, one of the greatest threats to the cocoa industry in Ghana is not disease or pest. Price volatilities on the international cocoa market represent, perhaps, the biggest threat to our cocoa. The prices of cocoa bean prices have plummeted, and have been forecast to remain low till the year 2020. The fortunes of our farmers, unfortunately, have become tied to the volatile cocoa bean market.

That is why the two largest producers of cocoa in the world, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, have now decided to co-operate in ensuring that we do not continue to be victims or pawns of a global cocoa industry that is dependent on the work of our farmers. I have, since assuming office, worked closely with His Excellency Alassane Outtara, President of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, to provide the necessary leadership for technical and political co-operation that addresses effectively the international cocoa price decline in the short-to-medium term. We are fashioning far reaching policies towards achieving a shared vision of an industrialised and prosperous domestic cocoa economy. This, I am sure, will reduce our vulnerability to the volatility of the markets, and help deliver prosperity to our farmers and peoples.

I have said it before, but, on such an occasion, I believe it bears repeating. Together, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire account for more than 60% of the world’s cocoa output. Ghana, for example, earned $2 billion from the sale of cocoa beans in 2015, and Cote d’Ivoire $3.75 billion, amounting, together, to $5.75 billion. And, yet, the chocolate market was worth some $100 billion in 2015. It means that the farmers whose toil and sweat produced 60% plus of the world’s cocoa, earned 5.75% of the global value of their activity. This cannot, and should not continue. It is manifest injustice. We have to devise ways of ensuring that our farmers reap much greater value from their toil.

I have, amongst other measures, directed the Minister for Food and Agriculture to direct COCOBOD to work towards increasing domestic processing of cocoa up from the current levels to a minimum of 50% of annual production by 2020. This will significantly increase export revenues and foreign exchange earnings from cocoa. Processing of cocoa must also go beyond just grinding of the beans, to tertiary manufacturing for table consumption. Chocolate and cocoa products from Ghana should be accessible anywhere on the globe.

As part of the 1-District-1-Factory programme, COCOBOD, and other private sector actors, will roll-out programmes that create small-scale cocoa processing industries across the cocoa-growing districts of our country. I challenge our enterprising youth to take advantage of this opportunity. 

The export market, nonetheless, must not be the sole focus for increasing the processing of our cocoa. The health benefits of cocoa are enormous. Ghana produces the best cocoa, which has strong nutritional value, and it is time that our consumption increases in our own backyard. Currently, per-capita consumption of cocoa in Ghana stands at 0.5 kilogramme. This should increase to one kilogramme per Ghanaian in the short-to-medium term.

This should begin with inculcating the habit of consuming cocoa in our children. This will not only develop the taste for cocoa products, but will also help them stay healthier to contribute their quota towards the transformation of Ghana. It is for this reason that the Ministry of Agriculture through COCOBOD, the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection through the School Feeding Programme, and the Ministry of Education through the Ghana Education Service are to ensure the sustained provision of cocoa beverages and chocolates to school children, from primary school up to secondary level. The target is to provide every Ghanaian student with a bar of chocolate or cocoa beverage each day, whilst in school. This programme has been given the needed impetus by some manufacturing companies, who have agreed to support the programme.

The Ministry of Tourism, in its programmes to boost tourism, has also rolled out campaigns to incorporate the promotion of Ghanaian cocoa products. I am reliably informed by the dynamic Minister for Tourism, Hon. Catherine Afeku, MP, that one of the world’s biggest Afrobeats artiste, our very own Fuse ODG, in addition to his other duties as Tourism Ambassador, has taken it upon himself to help promote the consumption of cocoa products not only in Ghana, but across the world. I thank him for this patriotic gesture, and I thank Okyeame Kwame also for his advocacy of the merits of cocoa.

I also wish to reiterate the commitment of Government towards the improvement of the welfare of cocoa farmers. The Minister for Food and Agriculture, and COCOBOD, will ensure that, in spite of the over 40% drop in world cocoa prices, their price review for the coming season will not leave farmers short-changed. Indeed, government will make sure that producer prices paid to Ghanaian cocoa farmers remain unchanged, and will be in sync with those of Ivorian farmers. Government is also working on the cocoa pension scheme for cocoa farmers, the first of its kind in our history. This will not only benefit cocoa farmers, but all involved in the cocoa value chain.

I am confident that the measures outlined will enable us attain a significant level of self-reliance, promote industrialisation and provide adequate cushion against the adverse effects of price shocks. We are an oil producing nation, but I can assure you that it will not be under my watch that Ghana will be struck with the ‘Dutch Disease’. Despite the growth in importance of oil and gas in our economy, we will proceed with our plans of building a world class cocoa industry, which will be the envy and toast of the world.

I cannot end this speech without one important, sombre admonition. I am charging the new Board of Directors and Management of COCOBOD to put behind them the era of systemic mismanagement, gross financial malfeasance and flagrant misappropriation of funds that allegedly characterised the running of COCOBOD in the recent past. The Ghanaian people demand accountability and the judicious use of COCOBOD funds, and I know you will not disappoint them.    

I believe very strongly that Ghana is on the cusp of a new beginning, which will repudiate the culture of failure. We are determined to lift our country out of the doldrums. Let us work together, and use all the blessings that the Almighty has bestowed on us to bring progress and prosperity to our people, in our time. The Black Star is poised to shine and shine again. Truly, the project is Ghana Beyond Aid.

Once again, happy birthday to COCOBOD, and I wish our farmers a Happy World Cocoa Day.

Thank you, and may God us all and our homeland Ghana, and make her great and strong.