SEND Ghana has commended the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) for taking proactive steps towards the usage of digitised weighing scales for dried cocoa beans at the point of sale starting October 1, 2021.
The move, meant to eradicate fraudulent practices allegedly perpetrated by Purchasing Clerks (PCs), at the point of sale, is seen as a significant step for Ghana’s cocoa sector, considering its potential positive impact on the incomes of cocoa farmers.
Dr Emmanuel Ayifah, Deputy Country Director, SEND Ghana, said the Organisation had keenly followed the COCOBOD’s efforts to ensure cocoa farmers earned a decent income, including the introduction and passage of the use of non-adjustable weighing scales to aid farmers in realising expected income from the sale of their cocoa beans.
He said a study commissioned by SEND Ghana in 2019 called attention to the adjustment of manual weighing scales by PCs, which adversely impacted the income of cocoa farmers.
The report, titled, “Assessing farm gate pricing and income of cocoa farmers: A case study of cocoa farmers in the Agona East District,” said up to 11 kilograms of dried cocoa beans were being “stolen” from farmers during weighing.
Dr Ayifah in a statement said the fraudulent act was also identified in COCOBOD monitoring findings in a subsequent documentary by an Accra based media house on scale tampering within the cocoa sector.
“Together, these reports formed the basis for renewed calls and advocacy for the regulator (COCOBOD) to prioritise phasing out manual weighing scales and introducing electronic scales to check illegal adjustments,” it said.
The statement said the recent announcement of the arrival and distribution of 40,000 tamper-proof electronic sealable weighing scales to Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) in fulfilment of the COCOBOD’s commitment to permanently resolve the long-standing threat of fraudulent weighing scale adjustments came to SEND Ghana as good news.
It said while they commended the COCOBOD on that milestone, they wished to also highlight the need for consistent monitoring and follow-ups to ascertain the rate of usage for the new scales by LBCs and their PCs.
Additionally, intensive awareness-raising must be done at the farmer level to ensure that all farmers were informed about the electronic scales and demand their usage at points of sale.
The statement called on actors engaging cocoa farmers, including the Ghana Civil-Society Cocoa Platform and other civil society organizations (CSOs), to sensitise farmers on the digital scales and build their confidence to insist on the usage of the equipment.
“CSOs should consider undertaking monitoring on the usage of the new scales to complement the work of the COCOBOD,” it added.
It said the vigilance of all COCOBOD field staff and cocoa farmers themselves would play a crucial role in making sure that PCs complied with the new directive to use electronic weighing scales only, and punitive measures should be applied to LBCs, who would default in doing so.
“We believe this move will help eliminate cheating tendencies and ensure the payment of exact producer prices to our hardworking cocoa farmers,” the statement said.
It said that would also help farmers fully realise and appreciate the Living Income Differential as they witnessed a substantial boom in their farm gate prices.