Ghana farmer video highlights plight of cocoa workers facing climate and financial challenges

An impactful new video produced by the recently-launched African Cocoa Marketplace (ACM) industry support services has revealed the plight of cocoa farmers in West Africa, who are continuing to struggle in growing enough beans to earn a living amid major economic and climate-based challenges.

While farmers have welcomed the recent news that Ghana and Ivory Coast have increased the farmgate price (or producer price) for the prevailing 2023-24 season, John Narh Adamnor, a small-holder cocoa farmer in the Eastern Region of Ghana, says his yield is effectively down by two-thirds.

His three-acre plot has been in his family for over 60 years, and his trees used to produce approximately 15 bags of cocoa each year, ‘But this year, I couldn’t get even 5 bags. ‘This shows that cocoa has failed us,’ he says.

In the wake of major cocoa prices rises, that have tripled on the cocoa Futures commodity market in New York to $10,000 a tonne in the space of a year, Ghana has increased its prices by 58.26%, from GH¢20,928 per tonne to GH¢33,120.00 per tonne, following a similar move by neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, which hiked its cocoa farmgate price by 50% from 1000 FCA francs to 1500 CFA francs.

The farmgate price increase allows farmers to share revenue from rising global prices, but ACM claimed that more help is needed for farmers.

Despite skyrocketing prices on the futures market the producer price for cocoa has remained so low that John has been earning the cedi equivalent of approximately US$1,460 for his main crop yield of 15 bags, representing a year’s labor. Now, even though the producer price has risen by close to 60%, John’s yields have fallen by two-thirds. Even at the new, higher producer price, his total earnings for the main crop would have been just $770.

For John, any benefit from the producer price rise is more than canceled out by his dramatically lower yield. ‘Also, the work that needs to be done will always be done, despite cocoa yields. And the money you put into it always would have to go in. So when things happen this way, we run at a loss,’ he says. It means that cocoa farmers like him, they must do the same amount of work on the farm but only get a third of the yield.

John thinks climate change is the primary reason for the bad harvest during the recent main crop. He says the trees themselves are healthy but need the required amount of rain to fruit. So he is praying for rain to mature his mid-crop, which starts soon in May.

In a video produced by the African Cocoa Marketplace, John says that by April, the region would normally have expected plenty of rainfall, but when the rains don’t come, work like pruning is delayed. ‘ If the sun persists, the trees can die,’ he says.

He added: “This year, cocoa has disappointed all of us. I think it is because of climate change that we have this challenge, but with the light crop, we are now getting some flowers, but we are praying that we get some rain.”

Dr Kristy Leissle, founder and CEO of African Cocoa Marketplace, commented: ‘I can understand why cocoa has been a disappointment. To get just a third of the yield for the same amount of time, money, and investment shows the acute difficulties that small-holder farmers are experiencing.

‘We welcome the rise in farmgate cocoa price, but when the underlying factor is that supply is low, the equation doesn’t work out for farmers. Getting a higher price for much less cocoa is not a winning scenario.’

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