The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) says it has lost GHS4.8 billion worth of investment in 35 hectares of cocoa farms to illegal mining (galamsey) activities at Boinso in the Western Region.
The investment covered the planting of new cocoa trees and plantain suckers, compensations to landowners and farmers, extension services, among other activities it was undertaking to scale up the country’s cocoa production.
Rev Edwin Afari, Executive Director, Cocoa Health, and Extension Division said a recent visit to the area saw that all the cocoa trees they planted had been cut down for galamsey.
“We have not even accounted for the harvesting that will be coming. It is just the investment; all the work we have done over there has gone to waste and so you can imagine what is happening,” he lamented.
He was speaking to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) on the sideline of a ceremony to award some 15 blind cocoa farmers, a novelty by the Board to whip up interest in cocoa farming, particularly among Persons with Disabilities.
He observed that galamsey had had a dramatic impact on the cocoa industry in Ghana over the last 10 years, and as a major earner of foreign exchange, the country could suffer the blunt if the illegality continued.
Rev Afari averred that the State cocoa company was facing a hard time reviving the industry as cocoa farmers were giving out their farms willingly or under compulsion for galamsey.
“In the southern part of the Western North and some parts of Ashanti Region, especially the Manso Adobea, Antoakrom and the Enyinam areas, a lot of the miners are causing us a lot of trouble.
“They are cutting away all the newly planted cocoa trees that we have, and it is really causing us a lot of investments, “she said.
He said Ghana risked losing its cocoa and, therefore, called on government, the Minerals Commission, and chiefs to help fight the menace to save the industry by not giving out concessions in cocoa-growing areas.
“Because this is what gets us foreign exchange and shores up our Cedi when it is depreciating, and also gives government more room to invest in all the development areas,” he said.
And to the farmers, Mr Afari noted that “the lump sum money may be good now but not in the future because cocoa is there all the time.
“If you do it well and you get 25 bags per hectare, you will be getting more money than you are getting now.”
He further expressed concerns over the aging population of cocoa farmers, citing the attendant looming dire impact on the economy and general development.
He was worried that many young people were not interested in agriculture in spite of the vast potential in the sector.
He admonished the youth, especially professionals from all fields, to venture into cocoa to create wealth for themselves and the country.
Rev Afari said the country was targeting 850,000 tonnes of cocoa this year as against last year’s 683,000.