Ghana is losing tonnes of moist cocoa beans to the activities of smugglers through its eastern border with the neighbouring Republic of Togo.
Dilapidated warehouses cocoa producing communities have been identified among the causes of the renewed surge in smuggling in the area.
Ghana News Agency reported that some cocoa storage facilities had roofs perforated and leaking during rains, whereas others are in urgent need of renovation.
The Jinijiso, Teteman, Guaman, and Lolobi Kumasi structures that served as buying centres as well as those Hlefi, Saviefe and Dodome are nothing to write home about, according to reports.
Some cocoa farmers claimed that the nature of the structures did not assure them of the safety of their cocoa beans before purchase.
Intelligence revealed that farmers, as a result, were comfortable selling their cocoa beans to buyers from Togo due to the ready market and cash as the Produce Buying Company, designated to purchase the commodity for Ghana Cocoa Board were sometimes unavailable for the purpose.
Worst of all, buyers from Togo purchase moist cocoa beans thereby, reducing the workload on the farmers in ensuring that their beans got dried since buyers from Ghana only paid for dried cocoa beans.
In October 2022, the Government of Ghana increased the price of a bag of 64 kg of dried cocoa beans to GH¢800 from GH¢660.
Nana Kwame Abass, then Volta/Oti Regional Chief Cocoa Farmer, said farmers in the two regions had accepted the new cocoa price announced by the government.
He said although farmers aimed to receive GH¢1,000 per bag, they noted that interventions such as the supply of plantain suckers, nursery of cocoa, mass spraying, supply of wellington boots, agrochemicals and others by the government reduced the price to GH¢800, which is acceptable.
However, the buyers from Togo between January and March 2023, are buying a bag of moist cocoa beans at GH¢1,600 but later dropped to GH¢1,360, which is still higher than the Ghanaian price.
By inference, the Produce Buying Company (PBC) may be recording low tonnage of the commodity or one of the lowest in years.
An IT man, known as Akpakpatsi, who hunts and traverses the forest enclave around Lolobi and Likpe, told the GNA, the countless times he had encountered cocoa smugglers transporting the commodity at night to unknown destinations.
Attempts by GNA to assess the cocoa purchases made in the Volta and Oti regions proved futile but it is believed that tens of thousands of tonnes of cocoa have been lost to smuggling in and through the regions annually.
A cocoa farmer disclosed that the absence of warehouses could not be a factor or a basis for farmers to smuggle the moist cocoa beans and should not also be the case for the dried ones.
She said the government must be committed to delivering promises made to farmers and make sure every single farmer benefitted from any incentive from the government.
The farmer recommended that security at the various borders be frequently reorganised.
Gabriel Nukunu, Volta/Oti Regional Manager, PBC when contacted by GNA, confirmed that he received complaints on the state of the warehouses and had forwarded same to the appropriate authorities to be addressed.
He could not speak about the issues of smuggling and purchasing of cocoa beans since he had not received approval to speak to the media.
A visit to the Lolobi Kumasi warehouse saw one Boniface Addae, who identified himself as a Chief Carpenter and was working on part of the warehouse which housed some properties of the officer who buys the cocoa beans.
The Kadjebi District Chief Executive (DCE), Wilson Kwami Agbanyo, in October 2022, appealed to Assembly members to help stop the smuggling of cocoa to the neighbouring Republic of Togo.
“The menace, which is on the rise in the district, has to stop,” he said.
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