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18.06.2013 Letter

Open Letter To Ghana's Finance Minister

By Kofi Thompson
Finance Minister Seth TerkperFinance Minister Seth Terkper
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Honourable Minister,
Years ago, I wrote an article urging the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to take steps to enable Ghana switch to certified organic cocoa production.

It was read by the then Finance Minister, the Hon. Baah-Wiredu of blessed memory - who thanked me for what he said was an insightful article.

That was typical of the late Baah-Wiredu - who was aware that I had authored many articles that were extremely critical of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) regime, of President Kufuor.

What mattered to him, was that, my article pointed the way to the future, for Ghana's cocoa industry.

The upshot of it, is that, when the Hon. Baah-Wiredu accompanied President Kufuor to Switzerland on an official visit, the president had a meeting with the Ghanaian community in Switzerland - at which the then finance minister apparently engaged a young Ghanaian resident in Switzerland, Mr. Yayra Glover, in a conversation.

Impressed by Mr. Yayra Glover, when asked what he could do to get him to return to Ghana, Mr. Glover is said to have told the minister that if given a licence to produce and purchase certified organic cocoa for export, he would return home to set up a business to organise cocoa farmers to produce and export certified organic cocoa beans to Switzerland.

Mr. Tony Fofie was the deputy chief executive of the COCOBOD at the time.

It so happened that around that time, I was also trying to help a young man, Mr. Newton Amaglo - who had the agency for a natural pesticide made from neem seed oil that was manufactured in India - to get his natural neem pesticide tested by the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) for approval for use by cocoa farmers.

It was then that I met Mr Fofie, who was very helpful and got his male secretary to arrange for CRIG to test the natural neem seed oil pesticide.

To the eternal credit of Mr. Fofie, he was quick to grasp the long-term need for Ghana to switch to organic cocoa production, to enable it maintain its position as a major producer and exporter of cocoa beans; in subsequent phone conversations with him at the time.

Indeed, he pointed it out to me that CRIG and the NGO Agro-Echo were actually involved with a group of organic cocoa farmers at Akwadum in the Eastern Region.

For me, it is entirely fitting that today, Mr. Tony Fofie, is in charge of the COCOBOD as chief executive.

For it is at precisely the time when someone from Ghana's Western Region, Madam Christina Nana Armah Amihere, is endeavouring to bring a company with experience in certified organic production in Belize to Ghana.

Madam Amihere's vision is to see organic cocoa grown using natural organic fertiliser, biochar and permaculture methods, creating sustainable wealth for rural dwellers in her home region, the Western Region.

The idea is to replicate a certified organic cocoa project that Carbon Gold and Craig Sams have in Belize, here in Ghana too.

Carbon Gold was founded by Mr. Craig Sams, the founder of Whole Earth Foods and co-founder of Green & Black's, the organic chocolate company.

Green & Black's was taken over by Cadbury, which in turn was itself also taken over by Kraft Foods, the US multinational food giant - but has kept its fairtrade ethos.

When they appeared on the scene, the Belize project was apparently faced with ruin. The high price they once enjoyed from the buyer of their beans had collapsed from US$1.80, to 55¢ a pound.

As providence would have it, Mr. Craig Sams appeared on the scene when they suffered the price-collapse for their cocoa beans - as a white knight to the rescue, so to speak.

Today, the Toledo Cacao Growers Association (TCGA) farmer's co-operative in Belize is thriving - supplying the beans for Mr. Craig Sams' new chocolate, Maya Gold.

Mr. Sam's company, Carbon Gold, which produces and sells biochar, wants to replicate its organic cocoa production success in Belize in Ghana.

It will be a return to West Africa for Green and Black's co-founder, Mr. Craig Sams - as prior to going to Belize in 1993, Green and Black's sourced its cocoa beans from Togo.

Political instability in Togo - post-election violence - forced the company to look for a new supply source, which ended up in Belize.

I am writing this letter to appeal to you to help Madame Amihere collaborate with Carbon Gold and its founder, Mr. Craig Sams to replicate their successful Belize organic cocoa project here too - as my humble contribution to helping Ghana eventually switch to organic cocoa production, to secure the industry's long-term future.

Since it will qualify as a free-zone entity, who knows, perhaps years down the road we might even succeed in getting Mr. Sams to build a factory here, to produce organic chocolate in Ghana's Western Region - to supply own-brand organic chocolate to supermarket chains in the UK, the EU, the US, Russia, China and Japan, and create sustainable wealth and well-paid jobs in the Western Region.

Please do what Mr. Baah-Wiredu did to make possible the Yayra Glover Project, for the far-sighted and dynamic Madam Amihere - by encouraging the COCOBOD to give her planned partnership with Carbon Gold and its founder, a licence to buy and export certified organic cocoa beans from the farmers they will work with, in the Western Region, to convert to organic cocoa farming.

At the moment, they are actively seeking funding for the proposed project in the Western Region.

Many thanks in advance for your assistance - and Happy Father's Day to you in advance, Sir.

Yours in the service of Mother Ghana,
Kofi Thompson.

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