Accra, Oct. 22, GNA - The producer price of cocoa for the 2004 - 2005 crop season which begins on Friday remains unchanged at nine million cedis a tonne, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, announced in Accra.
The Government has since May 2001 increased the producer price paid to farmers five times, improving the price from 3.8 million cedis to the current level of nine million cedis.
A bag of 64 kilograms of cocoa will fetch 562,500 cedis, representing 73.02 per cent of the Free on Board (FOB) price. Speaking at a press conference to launch the season, Mr Osafo Maafo said a pre-season bonus of 160 billion cedis would be paid to farmers for the 2003 -2004 main crop season with each farmer receiving 15,000 cedis bonus per bag.
He said the Government was keeping the price peg at the last season's rate because of falling world prices. He said if the Government should pay farmers 70 per cent of the FOB, it would be lower than the nine million cedis per tonne.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the price, which was far above what was being paid to farmers in neighbouring countries, should serve as an incentive to the farmers to be confident about the future prospects of the industry.
"This should continue to encourage cocoa farmers to work more diligently to improve upon both the quantity and quality of their produce through improved husbandry practices and better processing at the farm level."
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the Government was pursuing prudent policies and measures aimed at improving the crop yield and the lifestyle of farmers through enhanced agronomy practices, diseases and pests control exercise and provision of extension services.
These measures had resulted in increasing the yield to 736,000 tonnes for 2003 - 2004 crop season, the highest in the country's history.
The highest cocoa production of 581,000 tonnes before the 2003 - 2004 season was recorded in 1964/65.
To further build on the gains so far chalked, the Government would continue with its mass spraying programme to control capsid and black pod diseases in all the six cocoa growing regions.
The exercise would also sustain the 50,000 jobs, which had been created as a result of the formation of the spraying gangs. There are also plans to rehabilitate existing roads and construct new ones in cocoa growing areas for which the Government had earmarked 25 billion cedis.
Contracts would also shortly be advertised and awarded under an European Union Stabex Facility of about 115 billion cedis for the rehabilitation of roads in cocoa growing areas to facilitate evacuation of cocoa and other farm produce.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the Government would continue to reward farmers through the payment of special bonuses from monies accruing from the equalisation accounts into which windfalls from better than expected prices are paid.
The Government, he said, was also providing 15 billion cedis to support wards of cocoa farmers in their education. Currently about 8,153 students are receiving assistance from the scheme.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the Government was providing 1.7 billion cedis to check the acts of marketing clerks, who adjust purchasing scales with the view to cheating cocoa farmers.
"Government is determined to eradicate this canker from the cocoa purchasing system," he said.
Nana Ehuma Kpanyili VI, President of Ghana Cocoa, Coffee and Sheanut Farmers Association, said they were satisfied with the price level given by the Government.