By Gifty Arthur
The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), is advising all it stakeholders, especially Licensed Buying Companies to finalize their programme of activities, as the closing date for the 2015/16 cocoa crop season, is tomorrow, Thursday, September 29, 2016.
The announcement was contained in a statement signed and issued in Accra by the Board’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, yesterday.
It comes, barely a week after Dr. Opuni in Frankfurt – Germany, signed a syndicated loan of US$1.8Billion from 24 banks for the purchase of cocoa beans from licensed cocoa buying companies in the country in the next season.
The brief statement copied to The Herald said “It is hereby notified to general information that purchase of the 2015/2016 Cocoa Crop Season, would end at close of business on Thursday, 29 September 2016.
All Licensed Buying Companies (LBCs) are kindly requested to wind up all operational activities for the 2015/2016 Cocoa Crop Season before the opening of the 2016/2017 Main Crop Season”, the statement added.
COCOBOD, is all set to buy cocoa beans from LBCs for the 2016/2027 crop season after it secured the loan facility, exactly a week, ago.
Dr. Opuni, put pen to paper for the US$1.8billion syndicated loan from some 24 banks abroad, to purchase cocoa beans and do other related activities in the sector.
The US$1.8 billion, which is expected to hit Government of Ghana (GoG) account in the coming days, is to help “cocoa farmers, receive prompt payment for their produce”, Dr. Opuni said.
The other banks, which were described as Lead Arrangers were; Ghanaian owned Fidelity Bank, Deutsche Bank, Natixis, Cooperative Rabobank, Nedbank, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered Bank, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, DZ Bank and Ghana International Bank.
The COCOBOD boss, who signed with the Deputy Minister of Finance, Cassel Ato Forson, at a ceremony last Wednesday, assured the banks, Ghana was committed to repay the loan at the stipulated August, 2017 date. The facility comes with an all-inclusive rate of 1.5percent.
Ghana’s Parliament, had earlier approved a total of US$2bllion, but the CEO, during the signing ceremony said that, though they are entitled that amount, COCOBOD will take that initial amount so that when it becomes critical that they need it, they would ask for the remaining US$200 million if the cocoa crop performs better and requires further funds.
At the signing ceremony which was televised live to the Ghanaian media at the COCOBOD head office in Accra through SKYPE, Dr. Opuni expressed appreciation to the banks and hoped that the country will be able to meet the output target of between 850, 000 metric tonnes and 900, 000 metric tonnes for crop season.
He told representatives of the banks “we are confident of achieving our production target of 850,000-900,000 metric tonnes during the 2016/2017, cocoa season which begins in October 2016”.
According to him effort to hit the production target for the 2015/2016 cocoa season was unsuccessful blaming it on severe and prolonged dry weather conditions that lasted from December to March, 2016.
To mitigate the effect of climate change he said “COCOBOD is collaborating with the Forestry Commission of Ghana and Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources of Ghana, to promote Agro forestry system. Our cocoa farmers are also being educated to engage in environmental friendly practices on their farms”.
He mentioned deliberate interventions introduced by the government as the free fertilizer, free distribution of 60 million hybrid cocoa seedlings equivalent to about 50, 000 hectares of cocoa farm to farmers which will be done annually to rehabilitate over-aged cocoa farms, disease farms.
He was optimistic that with the introduction of these initiatives, farmers will be supported to create about 500, 000 hectares of new cocoa farms over the next 10 years.
“All these interventions are aimed at sustaining productivity in order to improve upon our yields. This productivity package has also attracted and motivated over 40, 000 young men and women to engage in cocoa farming. All these initiatives are expected to add another 500, 000 to 750, 000 metric tonnes of cocoa after the next 10 years to our current yield.
COCOBOD is also assisting to provide new schools and rehabilitate old ones in cocoa growing communities to eliminate the worst forms of child labour and ensure that children of school-going age in cocoa growing areas have access to quality education”.
The US$1.8 billion is different from the facility secured from these banks last year to rehabilitate roads in six cocoa growing regions Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Western, Central Eastern and Volta.