Opuni trial: Farmers said Lithovit freeze was ‘injustice’ to them since it increased yield ‘astronomically’, ‘tremendously’ – Witness

Lorlornyofm
By Lorlornyofm July 4, 2022 00:35

Opuni trial: Farmers said Lithovit freeze was ‘injustice’ to them since it increased yield ‘astronomically’, ‘tremendously’ – Witness

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Lithovit

A retired chief technical assistant at the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED) at Assin Fosu in the Central Region, Mr Samuel Tsatsu-Adigler, has told the court hearing the GHS271-million financial loss case against former Ceo of Ghana Cocoa Board, Dr Stephen Opuni and businessman Seidu Agongo, that despite a freeze on the distribution and application of Lithovit liquid fertiliser, some farmers, particularly those in the Brong Ahafo Region, which bordered Adabokrom in the Western North Region, clamoured for it.

“With the farmers who have farms in both regions, the Brong Ahafo and the Western North, at the time we were supplying Sidalco and Lifet – A to our farmers, the Brong Ahafo farmers said they were being supplied with Lithovit, so, these farmers from the Brong Ahafo region, continued demanding from me Lithovit fertiliser”.

“According to some of these farmers, they had used Lithovit in 2014 and it had increased their yield astronomically”, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler told the court presided over by Justice Clemence Honyenuga on Wednesday, 29 June 2022.

He said even after the government put an embargo on the use of the fertiliser in 2017, several farmers kept asking him it.

“On my assumption [of office] as chief technical officer back in Assin Fosu, I came to meet a large quantity of Lithovit in stock but, according to the officer I took over from, those stock were received in 2017 but there was a directive from the CHED head office that it shouldn’t be distributed to farmers until further notice. So, I could not distribute it any to our demanding farmers”, he told the court.

Asked what he meant by demanding farmers, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler, who is the fifth defence witness for Dr Opuni, explained: “By this, I mean the farmers also seeing the Lithovit in our store and it not being distributed to them for the reason that a restriction is put on it. This actually, even led to some farmers organising a demonstration against me but for the intervention of the regional chief farmer, Nana Kwasi Ofori …”

“One particular farmer, Mr Robert Anyan, a two-time district best farmer and also one of the farmers who used the Lithovit, always challenged me when we met at our local radio station, Nkwa FM. His reason being that, he used Lithovit in 2014, which increased his yield tremendously. Therefore, having kept the rest in store and not sharing to them was injustice to him and his other colleagues” because its unavailability was leading to low productivity of cocoa in the area.

He said several other farmers raised similar concerns anytime they phoned in to radio station programmes designed to educate farmers.

Mr Tsatsu-Adigler, who was led in evidence by Mr Samul Cudjoe, counsel for Dr Opuni, also said he sees no reason why the former Cocobod CEO should be prosecuted since, according to him, he was seen as a “saviour” by cocoa farmers for purchasing Lithovit liquid fertiliser for them.

The witness also told the court that he does not believe the lithovit fertiliser tested by scientists at the Chemistry Department of the University of Ghana and about which a recommendation was made on page 9 of the scientists’ report that it should be investigated before widespread use because they found only a small amount of lithovit in the sample, was the same lithovit fertiliser that was distributed to the farmer in the 2014/2015 crop season.

“My lord, I would like to say that I wasn’t there before this said sample was tested”, he noted, “But upon my own observations of the effect of [the] farms sprayed with Lithovit, [the] testimony by some farmers who benefited from the use of Lithovit on their farms, and the report from my CHED management team in 2015, I can confidently say this was not the Lithovit Cocobod supplied to us that was tested”.

Responding to a claim by the third prosecution witness of the state, Dr Yaw Adu-Ampomah, that the fertiliser was not good and even drank by farmers in place of water, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler said: “This is very unfortunate that my former deputy chief officer of agronomy and quality control will say this”.

The witness explained: “Whoever said this is not on the ground; he’s not in contact with our farmers, in that, as I already mentioned, my own observation of farms sprayed at Assin Fosu, 2014/2015; testimony by some of these farmers both at Assin Fosu and Adabokrom; and our own CHED management team report in 2015; all these expressed praises in the usage of the Lithovit fertiliser”.

Asked for his response to assertions by some prosecution witnesses that despite the $65,200,000 spent by Cocobod in procuring Lithovit liquid fertiliser for farmers, there was no significant increase in cocoa yield in Ghana in the 2014/2015 crop season, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler answered: “My lord, farmers have testified that the use of Lithovit fertiliser has increased their yield, improved their income and enhanced their livelihood. Therefore, if somebody knows the need of farmers and given them the right inputs like the Lithovit to bring changes in their lives, I see no reason why such a person, who is a saviour to them, should be charged as such”.

On the prosecution’s insistence that Cocobod was defrauded into procuring the Lithovit fertiliser for $65,200,000, even though its efficacy was questionable and did not have any positive impact on yield, per the arguments of the prosecution team, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler said: “My lord, Lithovit, as I know, was not supplied to all the cocoa regions, for instance, the Western North, which I worked, which is one of the biggest of cocoa growing regions and, therefore, to use only Lithovit as the measure for increase in production, may be a wrong judgement”.

He added: “My Lord, my division is not involved in purchasing of inputs. Ours is to see to the usage of the inputs and, therefore, I cannot say anything in terms of this”.

When asked what he thought about the prosecution’s case that purchasing Lithovit caused financial loss to the state, Mr Tsatsu-Adigler responded: “I think I answered this question earlier that some farmers have testified that when they used the Lithovit, it increased their yield and, therefore, improved their income from the cocoa harvested and had changed their total livelihood from which some of them said they were able to buy vehicles and put up buildings, therefore, it can’t be said that the purchase of Lithovit by COCOBOD was useless”.

The case has been adjourned to Monday, 4 July 2022.

Dr Opuni, Mr Agongo, who owns Agricult Company Limited – suppliers of Lithovit liquid fertiliser – are being tried for defrauding the state among other charges, with regard to the purchase of Lithovit liquid fertiliser.

They are on self-recogisance bail.

Source: Classfmonline.com

Lorlornyofm
By Lorlornyofm July 4, 2022 00:35
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