Home News COCOBOD Trial: COCOBOD Director schools state prosecutors on the use of fertilisers

COCOBOD Trial: COCOBOD Director schools state prosecutors on the use of fertilisers

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General News of Wednesday, 3 April 2024

Source: theheraldghana.com

The Director of Research, Monitoring and Evaluation at COCOBOD has described the prosecution’s attempt to attribute the rise or fall in cocoa yields to the use of one particular fertiliser as erroneous.

Dr Francis Baah explained to the High Court the “myriad of factors” that can lead to an increase or a dip in cocoa production within a given season. He added that COCOBOD purchases at least five different fertilisers—granular and foliar—for use on cocoa during a particular season.

The COCOBOD Director has been giving evidence in court regarding the trial of former COCOBOD Chief Executive Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo. They are facing various charges, including defrauding by false pretences, willfully causing financial loss to the state, corruption by public officers, and contravention of the Public Procurement Act.

“Would your Monitoring & Evaluation Department blame any particular fertiliser for the rise, fall and or stagnation of cocoa production in any particular production year from 2013/14 till date?” The witness was asked by counsel for Seidu Agongo, Benson Nutsukpui, on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.

Dr Baah, who is a subpoenaed witness for Mr Agongo, asserted, “No! Unless there is a study or report to identify the culprit.”

He also pointed out that he is “not aware of such a study” conducted in the past by his outfit on the effects of Lithovit liquid fertiliser or any other fertiliser on cocoa production in any particular production year from the 2013/2014 cocoa season to the present.

“No, the yield you get for cocoa is an expression of the relationship between the plant and the environment. The environment includes rainfall, the nature of the soil, farmer practices and crop protection against pests and diseases, fertilisers and other variables… [including] the month of the year,” he explained on Thursday, March 21 sitting.

He noted that although lithovit liquid fertiliser was applied on cocoa farms during the 2016–2017 cocoa season, which recorded 989,510.69 tonnes of yields, one of the highest produced for many years, lithovit cannot take credit alone.

He was then asked, “Again, no particular fertiliser can claim glory for that increase in yield or claim to be responsible for that increase in yield?”

Dr Francis Baah, a former Executive Director of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) of COCOBOD, maintained, “That will be correct, and indeed, if I may add, no single agronomic, husbandry, or management practice can claim to increase production.”

Subsequently, the following ensued between the counsel and the witness:

Q. In 2021, the yield jumped to 1,047,384.94; that is correct?

A. That is correct

Q. The following year, 20211/2022, it fell by almost 40% to 683,268.94; that is correct?

A. That is correct

Q. Would it be right for anybody sitting anywhere to say that it was as a result of fertilisers that were bought by your chief executive in 2021/2022?

A. That would not be the case; it is a combination of [a] myriad of factors.

Q. Please explain to this honourable court why your chief executive for that year should not be blamed for the fall from 1,047,384.94 to 683,268.94.

A. I would not blame my chief executive because he does not have any control over the elements and factors that determine production, including the world market price.

Q. Will you attribute the fall in production from the 2020–2021 cocoa season to the 2021–2022 cocoa season to any fertiliser procured under the supervision of your Chief Executive at the time?

A. I will not. The changes or the vagaries in production figures is impinged on, as I have explained before, by a basket of factors.

Q. 2022/2023, it fell further to 656,139.87; that is true?

A. That is true

Q. Who do you blame for that?

A. I am not in the position to blame anybody

Q. Which fertiliser do you blame for that?

A. I blame no input.

Q. When you take out the production of 2022/2023, which is 656,139.87, from the production of 2016/2017, which is 969,510.69, you will get 313,370.82 metric tonnes; that is correct?

A. That is correct.

Q. Tell this honourable court, as far as you are aware, has anybody been held responsible for the two years of 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 for the production of cocoa?

A. I don’t know of anybody being held responsible.

Q. Would it be appropriate for the managers of COCOBOD for 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 to be held responsible for [the] fall in production when you yourself have said that production is a result of a basket of issues and that no agronomy practice, husbandry, or management can determine the production?

A. I do not think it would be appropriate unless there is clear evidence of dereliction of duties on the part of any staff.

Q. Can any particular fertiliser or chemical be held responsible for the fall that we have seen in 2021/2022 and 2022/2023?

A. I do not think so.

Sitting at the Accra High Court will resume on April 8, 2024.

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