There is a local proverb that excites me so much and urges me on all the time. The excitement of the wise saying is due to its advocacy push, urging one to not shut up and be doomed but speak out and be saved.
Literally translated, this proverb in the Akan language says that if you do not speak out about the haircut your barber gives you, you end up with a distorted one. The wise counsel could easily be likened to the way we have conducted our interest in the cocoa business. We have shut up for too long and left other countries to exploit our cocoa advantage. And the results? Our farmers have, over the decades, been the worse off.
Earlier this week, as our President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, played host to one of the powerful Western “barbers” in the cocoa manufacturing industry. When I heard the news, I prayed earnestly that we would not just stare in the mirror and watch on for another bad and distorted haircut.
And so, in the meeting at the Flagstaff House with Madam Mary Barnard, President of one of the world’s largest snack company, Mondelez International Incorporated, the President of the Republic of Ghana articulated the issue of how we are failing to reap value for money with the cocoa we sell to the West.
Cote d’Ivoire-Ghana advantage
At the meeting last Monday, according to reports available, the President hinted at some startling statistics. He told the world that between Ghana and our neighbour, La Cote d’Ivoire, we produce a whopping 60 per cent of the entire world’s cocoa output. That indeed is a strong advantage to enter into any business relationship.
Yet, it is very disappointing that though we command a comfortable advantage in the cocoa industry, we only made $5.75 billion out of the sale of cocoa in 2015. Breaking the statistics down further, the hard working cocoa farmer in both countries who are sweating each day, sometimes defying snake and scorpion bites and enduring the harsh weather conditions, earned only 5.7 per cent of the global cocoa market.
These farmers, who, over the decades, have not enjoyed equal dividends for their toils, have religiously kept world class chocolate and cocoa products companies in the West running non-stop. They have created jobs for citizens of those countries and helped make colossal profits for the shareholders of those chocolate and cocoa product companies. And so for how long should we stare mutely in the barber’s mirror and allow distorted haircuts?
The time is now for our leaders who have the clout and the muscle to negotiate hard for our cocoa farmers using the Cote d’Ivoire – Ghana advantage. Otherwise, it would continue to be a big blot on our conscience. Western stakeholders in our cocoa industry should not be allowed to get away with one-sided favourable contracts that rather seek to disadvantage and impoverish our cocoa farmers.
Free trade et al
The fact is poverty has so much blinded us we tend to overlook our selling strength. In the name of free trade, where, according to Cadbury UK Ltd., free trade means fairer trading conditions and opportunities for producers in developing countries to invest in their businesses and communities for a sustainable future, we do not see benefits of their fairness and opportunities. What we see is exploitation based on the available statistics.
In the name of wooing foreign investors because of the status of our economy over decades, we have opened our doors too wide. We have created hospitable laws to favour them because we believe they have the funds to invest and the technology our local investors do not have. Before we are aware they have looted us and destroyed what they came to meet as has happened in the case of illegal mining, popularly known as “galamsey,” where our water bodies, the general environment and farms have been rendered not usable.
Furthermore, in the name of free and fair trade, free zone enclaves have been created to encourage production for exports. What we sometimes get are investors who come in to enjoy the free benefits, including taxes, only to shift focus and indulge in other things. They even sometimes, pack and leave our shores after making their fill.
As a country, we should have by now, read through all the cover up and Public Relations gimmicks of the cocoa and chocolate manufacturers who come in to take out our raw materials cheaper than imagined. To maintain their supplier relationship and be in our good books, they would go all lengths to look “holier than thou.” They know how key we are as suppliers to their value chain. Without our pure rich cocoa, they cannot make those bold selling claims to keep their businesses profitable.
Any wonder that the world’s largest snack company, Mondelez, would come and set up a project called “Cocoa Life” here in Ghana just to transform cocoa growing communities by linking improvements in productivity with progress towards development goals? All that is pure public relations – doing good to do well. Other companies doing businesses with locals and knowing how dependent they are on them for their raw materials, equally set up goodwill projects simply to make themselves look responsible and caring.
The time is rife for us now to use our joint strength with Cote d’Ivoire and demand our pound of flesh. While highlighting the gaping holes in the cocoa-supplier-relationship that we have with the West, we should also seek to promote the prime interests of our respective cocoa farmers – a better world and of course local prices for their produce.
Additionally, we should push to get some of the many cocoa based global manufacturers to come set up businesses here to help add value to our raw cocoa. It is good to have good old Nestle and Cadbury set up here in Ghana adding value to Ghana’s cocoa with some of their products.
However, both companies could do a lot better. For example, Nestle is said to be the world’s largest producer of chocolate. What would have prevented Nestle, all these years, from setting up a Nestle Africa Company to produce authentic chocolate and other cocoa products manufactured from the heart of the world’s best and largest cocoa farms? Does it not make business sense to set up in a continent that is said to be fast growing and currently has a population of about 1.267 billion?
We have done enough self-inflicting injuries in this cocoa-supplier-relationship with Western manufacturers. Enough has been enough, especially where the supplier relationship has been over exploited and eyes are now wide open. The haircut must be right this time around and so, let’s talk.
…with Wireko-Andoh (firstname.lastname@example.org)