Business News of 2014-01-21

COCOBOD to recondition cocoa beans

The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) is to recondition cocoa beans which quality may have been compromised as a result of over exposure to the weather following a two-week demonstration by head porters at the Apowa and Kajebiri takeover centres in the Western Region.

The reconditioning, which involves raising the quality of the processed and packaged beans to agreed levels at the various decrepit sheds, will be done before the beans are re-bagged for shipment.

The move is to ensure that Ghana’s cocoa beans, which is classified as the best in the world, is not reduced to affect the market.

The Public Affairs Manager of COCOBOD, Mr Noah Amenyah, told the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on January 17 that although the board did not envisage losses in terms of cocoa beans, it was prepared to ask for reconditioning of the loaded consignments which had been affected by the strike should it detect defects on them.

"If we realise that the quality of the beans is affected, as a result of rain water sipping into the trucks, or any other defects detected on the bags, then we will ask for reconditioning," the Mr Amenyah, said.

Although the process could take some days to finish, Mr Amenyah said it would not affect the shipment schedule of the board given that there were excess beans at the Takoradi warehouse ready for shipment.

The excesses resulted from the refusal of the cocoa head porters at the Commodity Village at Apowa and Kajebiri in the Western Region to load and unload the bagged beans in protest for better conditions of service. The demonstration, which lasted some two weeks, had, however, ended and the porters were now back to work, according to Mr Amenyah.

That, he said, followed a 50 per cent rise in their pay together with other compromises reached by the unions of the porters on one hand and the COCOBOD, the License Buying Companies (LBCs) and other stakeholders within the cocoa loading and unloading value chain on the other hand.

“About 800 trucks load of cocoa was affected by the unrest and are now due to be unloaded within the next couple of weeks”, Mr Amenyah said.

Cost to industry

Although COCOBOD's Public Affairs Manager said it was too early to quantify the losses resulting from the strike, he told the paper that the board was able to meet its shipment schedules within January.

"A ship came Thursday, January 16, and fortunately, the boys resumed work and were loading it for export," he said. He, however, admitted that the situation had affected the cocoa haulers, the companies that transported the beans to the takeover centres following a loss in their turnaround time.

Mr Amenya could, however, not quantify the loss in monetary terms immediately. The refusal of the carriers to unload the cocoa from the trucks meant that those trucks were not able to return to the hinterlands for more cocoa beans, a constraint which Mr Amenyah said was a cost to the entire industry.

"In terms of time lost, I think that is the cost all of us in the industry will have to pay and we hope that the other stakeholders will come to terms with it," he added.

Long term solution

The striking of cocoa porters over better conditions of service is not new to the COCOBOD and the country at large.

The problem has been recurring for the past three years leading to various types of losses suffered by the country, the board and the industry as a whole. In the case of last year, for instance, a ship that was due to load cocoa overseas left empty after it docked days without any activity from the porters.

As a result, the board, which regulates the cocoa industry, promised last year to partly mechanise the loading and/or unloading of the cocoa beans so as to help reduce the level of human involvement and its consequences on the cocoa carrying business.

But that has not happened, 12 months down the lane. "We have learnt from this thing and what we have done this time round is to put in place a committee to look for a permanent solution to it. We also promised ourselves that this won't recur and that was factored into the various negotiations we had with the porters and their unions," Mr Amenyah said.

The committee, he said, had been given four weeks to submit its report and recommendations on the issues and then some measures would be implemented to help forestall future occurrences.

In the meantime, however, Mr Amenyah said the board would put in place a transport system to be busing the carriers to and from work, supply them with drinking water and pay for their national health insurance levies, among others.

Cocoa and the economy

According to the 2014 budget, cocoa continued to play its pivotal role in the development of the economy, especially in rural development. It is also continued to contribute the chunk of the country’s earnings from exports.

For the 2013/14 crop year, an amount of US$1.2 billion was raised in the syndicated loan market, as compared to the US$1.3 billion drawn during the 2012/13 cocoa season to facilitate the implementation of programmes and activities during the cocoa crop season last year.

Source: Graphic Business
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