Emmanuel Dwomoh : A lot of the coffee we grow in Ghana is consumed here
Since 2010, Cocobod and the government of Ghana are trying to revamp the coffee business by assisting farmers and getting them interested again in this sector, explains Emmanuel Agyemang Dwomoh, deputy chief executive of the Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod), to CommodAfrica during the very first Ghana Coffee Business Forum that took place in Accra on May 22nd, while the Agency for Coffee Robusta in Africa and Madagascar (Acram) was holding a scientific conference and its 7th General Assembly (cf. our previous article in French on the event L'ACRAM et la Coffee Federation of Ghana surfent sur la nouvelle vague du Robusta)
How come Cocobod left aside coffee to concentrate an cocoa ?
We have not completely left coffee. In 2010, we started a pilot program from 2010 to 2014 to see how best we can revamp the coffee industry. This industry, for some time back, had not being doing well for price issues, getting markets, etc. So the farmers completely abandoned.
In Ghana, coffee is privately grown. But we, Cocobod as regulators, we support the farmers with seedlings and of course provide extension services to them. But because we are having issues with pricing, most of the farmers got discouraged and some of them abandoned their farms.
So between 2010 and 2014, the government went back, and specifically Cocobod went back to see how best we could assist farmers. By doing that, we realized the potentials are still there. So, between 2010 and 2014, Cocobod and the government started this pilot program, giving extension services and providing free seedlings to farmers.
At the end of the day, we realized farmers were very much interested. So we needed to make sure that we had enough seedlings for coffee farmers in Ghana and we could support them by providing fertilizers and adapt basic things they would need for their farm.
So, in 2014-2015, coffee extension work was given to the Seed production Division which is one of the division of Cocobod. The idea is to make it responsible for multiplication of seedlings and also make sure they educate farmers on the practice they carry out in order that they come out with something good for farmers.
At the same time, we are also looking at how we can maintain some minimum pricing to engage the farmer. Because, as I said, the challenge we had earlier on is that we did not have stable pricing ; farmers got discouraged and had to abandon their farms. So this time around, we need to find a minimum price so that, at the farm gate, the buyer and the farmer can negotiate further but it should not be below that farm gate price.
Will it be a guaranteed price like cocoa ?
We have not gotten there yet. But now that we have the Federation of Coffee, which is made up of farmers, exporters and also processors, we are making progress. Because before you go in coffee farming, you have to identify yourself with this Federation. With this body and Cocobod as regulator, and by looking at world coffee prices, we can be able to come out with a pricing for coffee in Ghana. So all we want to do now is to make sure that we are well strengthened on the ground.
We are also trying to put in place a data base so that we can capture every single farmer in the coffee production, know the size of their farm, their family size, their challenges, get to know the type of soil they grow coffee on, etc. Every aspect needs to be captured so that we can plant properly. In that case, we can also be thinking of the price of coffee for our farmers.
How many coffee farmers are there in Ghana? Is it increasing ? What is their profile ?
As of 2014, we had about 3 000 coffee farmers that we were working with. We have not done any further survey since then, but I am sure that it has increased.
Are they old or new farmer ?
It is mixed up. But I think we have a lot of young farmers. You know, when we started our pilot project, we were providing free seedlings, fertilizers and we are also giving the money to maintain the farm and all that. So we were able to maintain a lot of farmers. Because, basically, if you are to meet the farmer's needs so as to take care of some of the challenges they have in their production line, help the farmers to be in business, it motivates the farmer to do what he can do.
Cocobod is very much involved in exporting cocoa. So is your main target for coffee exports ?
Right now, we would like to have consumption of coffee in Ghana. Because, if we can consume our own coffee, we will not have problems we are facing now in cocoa : determination of prices, challenges with our farmers, etc. But, for some time now, it's becoming difficult for exporters to get coffee here and export it because a lot of the coffee we grow is being consumed here, in Ghana. It is a good start for us so we need to to educate and promote local consumption of coffee.
Do you have any figures on the consumption ?
No, I do not have those figures.