The Minister of Employment and Labour Relations, Mr. Ignatius Baffuor-Awuah has challenged cocoa farmers to accept the newly-introduced Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme aimed at supporting them in their retirement, ill-health and incapacitation.
“The best form of pension is to set aside part of your income in your prime age for it to be invested for your old age. Now that you have strength and can harvest 10 bags, 15 bags and 20 bags of cocoa that can fetch you income, you should realize that no condition is permanent”, he stated.
Mr. Baffuor-Awuah was speaking at this year’s national pensions’ awareness week organised by the National Pensions Regulatory Authority (NPRA) on Friday to educate cocoa farmers on the newly-introduced pension scheme for them.
The programme, which was attended by hundreds of cocoa farmers from the cocoa growing areas in the Bono, Ahafo and Bono East regions, was held on the theme “Total participation in pensions to ensure retirement security”.
Addressing the farmers, Mr. Baffuor-Awuah explained it had taken 37 years for the country to implement the pension scheme for cocoa farmers and therefore asked them to take advantage of the scheme to enable them to continue to enjoy the sweat of their labour when they could no more even farm.
He stated that as part of the implementation of the scheme, five percent of the incomes of registered cocoa farmers would be deducted when they sell their produce while COCOBOD would add one percent for investment.
He said 25 per cent of the investment amount would be paid as lump sum to the farmers when they reached the pension age while the remaining 75 percent would be used to pay the monthly pension allowances.
He stated that already an 11-member board of trustees had been inaugurated to oversee the implementation of the cocoa farmers’ pension scheme and expressed the hope that the scheme would be managed properly to serve the purpose for which it was established.
“This is a novelty which should be supported by all to succeed”, he stated, adding that cocoa farmers who had worked tirelessly over the years to sustain the economy needed to be supported to make ends meet in their old age.
Cocoa Management System
For his part, the Bono, Bono East and Ahafo Regional Manager of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division of COCOBOD, Mr. Emmanuel Anokye stated that after the inauguration of the scheme by the President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in Kumasi in December last year, a lot of preparations had been done to ensure its successful implementation.
He explained that the Cocoa Management System (CMS), which sought to gather accurate and reliable data on cocoa farmers and their farms, had been piloted in some of the cocoa producing region, adding that “As we speak, a pilot phase of the Cocoa Farmers Pension Scheme is underway in the Ashanti Region where 2,800 farmers have been enlisted and their contributions taken”.
Mr. Anokye announced that the registration of cocoa farmers in the three regions to be included in the scheme would commence on Monday October 25, 2021 and encouraged the farmers to get registered when officers visited them in their various communities.
“The scheme will see over 1.5 million farmers in the country contributing to a pension scheme which will guarantee their retirement”, he stated, adding that the setting aside of portions of their income for investment towards their future would cater for their retirement, ill-health and incapacitation.
Mr. Anokye said registered farmers on COCOBOD’s Cocoa Management System were allowed to join anytime they wished but must contribute for a minimum of five years to qualify them to benefit from the scheme.
For his part, the Chief Executive Officer of the NPRA, Mr. Hayford Atta-Krufi disclosed that professionals of other vocations who were hooked to other pension schemes for formal sector employees, but also registered cocoa farmers, were eligible to take part in the cocoa farmers’ pension scheme.
He encouraged both formal and informal sectors contributing to any form of pension not to wait until a few months before their retirement age before checking for their details since that could delay the payment of their pension benefits.
In her welcoming address, the Bono Regional Minister, Ms. Justina Owusu-Banahene called on workers in the formal and informal sectors to tap into the experiences of others who were enjoying happiness due to their foresight by planning properly in order not to live in regret during their retirement.