Ghana’s Cocobod pledges renewed action on alleged cocoa weight tampering
The Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod) has pledged action in the wake of a TV documentary focusing on alleged tampering of weighing scales by Licenced Buying Companies (LBCs) operating within the cocoa sector, reports Neill Barston.
As the industry body noted, the film from the Multimedia Group, had highlighted a key issue which the organisation described as ‘one of a number of challenges that have plagued the sector for decades’ and confirmed it was already taking steps to address the situation.
In a statement on the issue, Cocobod said it took the matter of weighing scale tampering very seriously, and consequently on several occasions, it stated that it has condemned the practice and similar acts, and the negative impact that such activity has on its work to improve farmers’ earnings.
According to the key trade body, its core aim remains to implement the Living Income Differential (of an additional $400 per tonne of cocoa paid by industry), to support the welfare of farmers through directly improving their earnings. It has also introduced a number of productivity enhancement measures in recent years, which remain ongoing.
Cocobod said: “The documentary, albeit commendable, is nonetheless belated and does not shed light on the measures which have been taken to address the problem since 2018 when the film was produced. It is for this reason that we believe the general public could benefit from information on measures presently being implemented to deal with the problem permanently, and to ensure that cocoa farmers receive fair and deserving incomes for their work.”
Detailing its actions to date, the organisation said it had previously made a preliminary inspection tour of LBC sheds, led by the chief executive of Cocobod in 2018, and its management then commissioned the Ghana Standards Authority (GSA) to perform a thorough inspection of all weighing scales used at LBC sheds (cocoa purchasing and weighing points) across the country. As the organisation added, this was necessary to gather empirical evidence on the extent of the problem, and to inform policy and strategic decisions.
Secondly, based on this report, it has devised two forms of measures, both in terms of preventative and punitive actions, including introducing electronic sealable weighing scales which meet a set of tamper-proof standards, starting this year. In the meantime, Cocobod has put in place a surcharge on any defaulting LBC with the monetary equivalent of the aggregated weight from cocoa sheds across the country that may have gained confirmed evidence of weight tampering.
Finally, the management of Cocobod confirmed that it has met with the LBCs and informed them about the aforementioned measures and the sanctions that it has put in place to ensure delivery of permanent solutions.
Cocobod added: “Continuous monitoring and policing will be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of such a measure to eliminate a systemic problem. The work of the media in shining light on the situation and improvement as we progress, as well as the vigilance of our field staff and the cocoa farmers themselves, will together play a crucial role in eliminating this cocoa canker.
“We are also confident that our Farmer Data/Cocoa Information Management System, which is underway, when ready will improve overall monitoring of the supply chain including purchasing, weighing and grading of cocoa, enhance records keeping, allows the early detection and flagging of inconsistencies and anomalies in records and ease traceability. Detected issues can then be promptly addressed.”
As the organisation concluded that it has maintained a farmer-focused approach to regulating and managing Ghana’s cocoa sector, which has included major drives on the introduction and intensification of Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEPs), such as, the Mass Pruning Exercise, the Hand Pollination Exercise, the Subsidised Fertiliser Distribution, the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme, among others.