Reports that cocoa farmers at Duakwa and surrounding villages near Agona Swedru in the Central Region, have appealed to the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to ensure that funds released to the Licensed Cocoa Buying Companies in respect of bonuses reach them have got observers worried.
One of the fundamental developments in Ghana's cocoa industry has been the increased prices paid to farmers, which have led to increased production over the years.
With the improved conditions of farmers, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has recorded improved production and record levels of investments.
Cocobod has also managed to secure loans for the sector, all aimed at improving cocoa production, a mainstay of the Ghanaian economy. But with news that the sector could be saddled with corruption, many observers fear for the future.
Opanin Kwaku Mensah, a cocoa farmer, has told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at Akim Oda where he has a cocoa farm, with another farm at Duakwa, that most of the farmers had not received their bonuses for cocoa beans sold at Duakwa for the 2005/06 and the 2006/07 main crop seasons.
According to him, even though the system for the disbursement of bonus was straightforward, some Purchasing Clerks (P/Cs) of the various societies, somehow, have found a way to make the process cumbersome for the farmers, especially the illiterates among them.
Therefore, some of his colleagues do not even understand the process fully. Consequently, according to Opanin Mensah some farmers are totally cheated, or given a fraction of their due bonuses.
According to the farmer, the COCOBOD is aware of the situation and therefore he is surprised the agency still remains unconcerned about "farmers' plight in this regard".
Apart from the late payment of bonuses, there is fear that some purchasing clerks have adjusted their weighing scales in order to cheat farmers as well.
A news report by the GNA claimed that cocoa farmers at Gye Wani Nkwanta near Akim Oda in the Birim Central Municipality, have accused Purchasing Clerks (PCs) of the various Licensed Cocoa Buying Companies (LCBs) in the area of cheating them, by adjusting their weighing scales.
The problem of late payment of bonuses seems to be widespread and observers fear that with the industry already suffering from the effects of smuggling, any action that will put farmers at a disadvantage could further worsen the problem of smuggling of the beans to neighbouring countries.