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Merger and liberalisation will dominate AGM of cocoa farmers

Pastor Christopher Williams – head of GCA Board of Directors

When cocoa farmers assemble in St. Andrew next week Thursday for their Annual General Meeting (AGM), the issue of liberalisation of the industry and the dissolution of the Grenada Cocoa Association (GCA) to be followed by a possible merger with the Grenada Co-operative Nutmeg Association (GCNA) are expected to dominate the agenda items.

A source close to the association told THE NEW TODAY that the Chairman of the Board of Directors, Pastor Christopher Williams is expected to warn farmers to be on guard against the move being made by the ruling New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell to change the status quo among the commodity bodies.

He said that the GCA boss will warn cocoa farmers that the meeting is taking place under “difficult conditions” and in “difficult times” and the current moves being taken by government “will determine the existence of the GCA and, depending on how they are handled the result could be very disastrous for the Association”.

He said the Seventh Day religious leader will remind the farmers that the Mitchell-led administration has an agenda of its own to turn and gain control of the affairs of GCA and GCNA.

“The idea of merger has extended beyond business into the domain of politics,” the religious leader will tell farmers.

According to the official who has an idea of the speech, the GCA Chairman will inform farmers that his Board of Directors “took a conscious decision to focus on the business of the merger and do not engage in politics”.

“…The Board took a decision to engage the inputs of farmers to receive a proper mandate in moving forward,” he quoted Williams as saying on the issue of Merger with GCNA.

“…Farmers gave the Board authority to negotiate the merger with certain conditions attached,” he added.

The official said that Chairman Williams will outline the following in his address;

“Fellow farmers, even as we speak, I am appointed to the Cabinet Oversight Merger committee’ to merge and deregulate the GCA. You should know that the first draft which reflected Government’s intention to control and liberalise the Cocoa Industry has been unanimously, rejected by the Committee.

I’ll say this once; the final draft must make farmers the “Centerpiece” of the merged entity. It was our collective conviction that the contents of the draft were not in the best interest of cocoa farmers; to this end a second draft has been circulated.

I cannot help asking, why in the midst of a global COVID-19 pandemic there is a move to undermine the Association under the disguise of merger with the GCNA. We say “no” to the intent of Government to control the Board of Directors with the aim of assuming control of the assets of farmers, and; to add insult to injuries, grant licenses to whom it wishes without consideration of farmers.

Cocoa farmers are unified on this matter, in its present form, the merger of GCA/GCNA proposed by Government is unacceptable and so a resolution has been adapted in a special meeting in Grenville authorising the Board to pursue merger on the following pre conditions:

(1.) The monopoly of the Association must be maintained.

(2.) The assets of both organisations must be vested in the members of both GCA and GCNA Farmers.

(3.) Allow GCA/GCNA to work together – functional cooperation and work towards eventual Merger.

(4) Merge both entities into one unit and keep the present structure as it is including the ratio of Government nominees to elected, i.e. 3 Government and 6 elected members. Additionally, system of issuing shares must be included.

(5.) If the above cannot be done, proceed to form a Producer’s Co-operative and subsequently work towards merger so that farmers can obtain shares.

(6.) It was unanimously agreed in all meetings that whatever structure the entity may be, GCA GCNA farmers must be the “centerpiece” of the decision- making process.

I want you to know that you are not powerless in this matter, GCA still operates on democratic principles and you still have one vote which is protected in the Ordinance. You alone, no else, have the power to effect the change you need.

Anyone or institution who tries to do this above your will, is working in futility. I know this because our reach extends beyond cocoa farming, we are the community, we survived strikes, market crashes, hurricanes, revolution and more and guess what, we are still here, aren’t we?”

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