The Minority in Parliament has chastised the ruling New Patriotic party (NPP) government for diverting about $650 million meant for Ghana’s cocoa sector.
Ranking Member for Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs Committee in parliament, Hon Eric Opoku, who spoke to, Kwame Minkah, host of Ete Sen on Radio XYZ 93.1 Tuesday morning, said the amount which is the first tranche of a total of $1.3 billion dollar cocoa syndicated loan secured for the 2018/19 crop year, was released and received by the government on October 6, 2018 but cocoa licenced buying companies are struggling to get money to pay farmers.
"They [government] has diverted the money and the farmers are suffering. This has never happened before. Produce Buying Company (PBC) is only buying the cocoa beans on credit and for some weeks now, the farmers are starving. Yesterday, some of the farmers came to my office. Their story is saddening but this government does not care," the former Brong Ahafo Regional Minister said.
His comments corroborate a statement issued by the Minority's spokesperson on Finance, Caisel Ato Forson that suggested that the amount “may be sitting in secured investments in a couple of banks earning interest whilst the ordinary cocoa farmer is suffering”.
Mr Opoku wants the COCOBOD CEO, Mr John Boahen Aidoo to be sanctioned of the COCOBOD CEO over the development.
Mr Opoku, a Member of Parliament (MP) for Asunafo South, a cocoa growing area, demanded that the Agric Minister, Dr Afriyie Akoto “immediately end the misapplication of the syndicated loan” and revert to the original purpose for its acquisition.
The MP added that minority will not relent in its efforts in ensuring that the welfare of the cocoa farmer is prioritized.
Meanwhile, government-owned Produce Buying Company (PBC) Limited the largest purchaser of Ghana’s cocoa beans from farmers, is fighting COCOBOD over cash.
PBC has issued a statement disputing claims by the Ghana Cocoa Board [COCOBOD] that it has released enough funds to them to purchase cocoa beans for the 2018/2019 crop season.
According to the PBC, the money released by COCOBOD is short of some 5,567 tons of cocoa beans which have been received by the Cocoa Marketing Company as at week 6 of the crop season which began in October 2018.
It is also challenging COCOBOD over the unpaid 104 million cedis of cocoa taken-over receivables due licenced buying companies.
The PBC has, however, assured that all farmers and stakeholders that their monies will be paid as soon as possible.
A statement signed by the Chief Executive Officer Kofi Owusu Boateng, said, the PBC is aware of the difficulties being encountered in certain cocoa purchasing areas in respect of the trend of payment for cocoa beans to farmers.
Mr Boateng said "PBC is working closely with our bankers to secure additional bank guarantees to enable us to access more funding from COCOBOD to pay for all credited stocks from our loyal farmers.”
Meanwhile, a recent findings from the Center for Socioeconomic Studies (CSS) has revealed COCOBOD has either refused, neglected or failed to allocate funds to the Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) as mandated for cocoa purchases.
This, it said, has resulted in delayed payments to cocoa farmers, a situation it said was undermining the well-being of the farmer.