The Management of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) says it has adopted punitive and preventive reform measures to resolve the tampering of weighing scales by Licenced Buying Companies (LBCs) within the cocoa sector.
Dr Emmanuel Opoku, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer Operations COCOBOD, said the management had taken the issue of weighing scale tampering very seriously and has on several occasions condemned the practice and similar acts.
It has also highlighted the consequential regressive impact of the practice on interventions that COCOBOD has put in place to improve the earnings and livelihoods of cocoa farmers.
Dr Opoku, at a press conference on the issue of weighing scales, said following a preliminary inspection tour of LBC sheds, led by the Chief Executive of COCOBOD in 2018, the Management 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.
This was necessary to gather empirical evidence on the extent of the problem, and to inform policy and strategic decisions, he said.
He said based on the report from GSA, which found that the practice was systemic, Management settled on two solutions; a preventive reform measure and an immediate term punitive measure.
The reform or preventive measure involves the introduction of GSA recommended electronic sealable weighing scales which meet a set of tamper-proof standards – so that scale adjustments will be a thing of the past.
He said to provide the needed guidance and ensure the smooth rollout of this reform, the decision was taken to import the electronic sealable weighing scales, starting this year, and distribute them at a cost to the LBCs.
The COCOBOD has put in place a punitive measure to surcharge any defaulting LBC with the monetary equivalent of the aggregated weight from cocoa sheds across the country that the LBC in might have short-changed the unsuspecting farmers, once GSA confirms adjustment of such weighing scales.
He said the management of COCOBOD after its discovery and confirmation by GSA held a meeting with the LBCs and informed them about the measures and the sanctions it planned to pursue.
"Obviously, continuous monitoring and policing will be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of such a measure to eliminate a systemic problem," he said.
Dr Opoku said the work of the media in shining light on the situation and improvement as we progress, as well as the vigilance of COCOBOD field staff and the cocoa farmers themselves, would help to eliminate the cocoa canker.
He expressed the hope that COCOBOD's Farmer Data/Cocoa Information Management System, when ready, would improve the overall monitoring of the supply chain including purchasing, weighing, and grading of cocoa.
It will also enhance records keeping, allow the early detection and flagging of inconsistencies and anomalies in records, and ease traceability.
He said the Management of COCOBOD has maintained a farmer-focused approach to regulating and managing Ghana's cocoa sector through the introduction and intensification of Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEPs), such as the Mass Pruning Exercise, the Hand Pollination Exercise, the Subsidised Fertilizer Distribution, the Cocoa Rehabilitation Programme, among others.
The overarching aim of the PEPs and the achievement of the Living Income Differential (LID) is to safeguard the immediate and future welfare of cocoa farmers by improving their earnings, so, they can afford improved standards of living.
"We do hope that all stakeholders will make this their mission as well and join forces with COCOBOD to create a fair and rewarding environment for all," Dr Opoku added.