PARTICIPANTS AND stakeholders at a recent high-level confab on sustainable cocoa in Ghana agreed that ensuring cocoa farmers earn remunerative incomes for the production of beans is the best way to sustain the industry.
This understanding was reached after months of dialogue between Ghana and the European Union (EU), which intends to introduce stricter legislation on imported commodities, including cocoa, into its member countries.
Throughout the dialogue, the Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board, Joseph Boahen Aidoo, has held the position that the fair international pricing of cocoa beans to enable farmers to earn living incomes for their produce was key to sustainable cocoa farming.
He admitted during a panel discussion at the conference that it was important to ensure that child labour and deforestation were tackled in all forms and that Ghana was committed to those causes.
However, he was of the view that a well-remunerated farmer will be in a better position to engage the right kind of labour and adhere to the standards of sustainability.
He also insisted that issues of child labour and deforestation were overblown in the Western media and by some civil society organisations who confused the issues.
Mr. Aidoo also expressed regret that some buyers of cocoa have adopted various means to undermine the Living Income Differential (LID). Such acts, he warned, undercut efforts at improving the earnings of farmers and posed a real and immediate threat to sustainability in the cocoa industry.
Another member of the panel, Ron Strikker, the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Ghana, said the dialogue has been very fruitful in allowing all parties to state their positions on the economic, social, and environmental pillars which impacted sustainability in the cocoa sector. Further steps should then be taken to address the issues which have been identified, he advised.
Alex Arnaud Assanvo, Executive Secretary of the Cote d’Ivoire-Ghana Cocoa Initiative, also stated that, if the right to earn a decent living income by cocoa farmers was not respected and met, then it would be unrealistic to expect that the farmers will be able to observe the human rights and environmental standards required to achieve sustainable cocoa production.
Leticia Yankey, the founder of Cocoa Mmaa, representing cocoa farmers on the panel, said low incomes was what drove unsustainable practices.
Nonetheless, she said cocoa farmers in Ghana were capable of producing cocoa sustainably if they are given the right incentives.
Michel Arrion, Executive Director of the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO), said the economic pillar for sustainable cocoa production should be topmost on the agenda of future dialogue between Ghana and the EU.
He added that the tendency for cocoa buyers and importing countries to point to an uncontrollable market as the determining force behind international cocoa prices was unfair to producing countries. He said the parties considered various interventions which could be deployed to address the present unfair pricing regime to achieve the ultimate goal of sustainability.
The high-level conference was organised by the EU to climax the first round of discussions with Ghana, as a cocoa-producing country, since March this year.
Present at the event were the Minister of Food and Agriculture, Owusu Afriyie Akoto; the Minister for Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor and the Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Ignatius Baffour-Awuah.
BY Melvin Tarlue