Business News of 2014-01-21

US$200m owed to COCOBOD

Minister of Finance and Economic Planning Seth Terkper is worried over a US$200million debt owed by local cocoa processing companies to Ghana Cocoa Board (Cocobod).

“Some of these local cocoa processing companies have not lived up to expectation and are owing Cocobod over US$200million.

“I am charging the governing board and management of Cocobod to ensure that these monies are retrieved as early as possible. The same applies to the Licenced Buying Companies that owe Cocobod huge sum of monies,” Terkper disclosed.

Cocobod has over the years been supplying cocoa beans to local processing companies on credit at a discount of 20 percent, targetted at growing local businesses and creating employment.

Mr. Terkper made this revelation at the inauguration of a new board of directors for Cocobod in Accra yesterday.

The new board, he said, is coming into being at a time when the cocoa sector is facing a huge number of challenges -- which include falling cocoa prices.

He explained that with the sustained hi-tech and Cocoa Disease and Pest Control programmes (CODAPEC) which have helped to raised national production, “you have to work closely with management to make the programmes more efficient and effective”.

He indicated that Cocobod has been in the news in recent weeks concerning haulage trucks’ congestion at the points of Tema and Takoradi -- due apparently to concerns by cocoa carriers. This situation appears to be an annual national concern that must be resolved once and for all.

“Iam told that management of the board has resolved the current crisis, but I would implore the new Board to work closely with management to ensure that all underlying issues to the problem are resolved with finality to put the issue to rest.” These are but a few of the challenges the new Board is being asked to provide policy guidelines and direction for management to address.

Mr. Terkper explained that the Board is expected to work in consonance with management to be consistent with the Ghana Cocoa Board Act, PNDC Law 81; ensuring that the cocoa sector remains vibrant, resilient and competitive to continue to support the livelihood of millions of people.

He said cocoa remains critical to the health of the Ghanaian economy and the livelihoods of millions of households across the country, adding that despite the oil find, the country cannot afford to abandon the production and marketing of a crop that has supported infrastructural development since independence.

“In nominating you to serve on the Board, The President is confident that individually and collectively you possess the attributes that will bring harmony to the operations of the Cocobod.”

Mr. Daniel Ohene Agyekum, Chairman of the board of directors of Cocobod, after the swearing-in ceremony said: “It is indeed with much pleasure that we accept this national call to duty to serve on the Cocobod, an institution that epitomises the entrepreneurial abilities of our rural farmers to individually and as families organise the cultivation of one crop the has changed the economic fortunes of our country for over a century.

Mr. Agyekum added: “There is absolutely no doubt that cocoa is critical to the livelihood of our people. Millions of Ghanaians have benefited from the hard work of our farmers. It is time for us to make some contributions to the sustenance of the cocoa sector.

“We should not allow pest and diseases, low soil fertility, lack of appropriate planning materials, smuggling and illegal surface mining, among others, to deprive this country of an enterprise that still has the potential to address the issue of poverty -- particularly in our rural communities which deserve improved livelihood.”