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COCOBOD Fights Back!

• We Have Not Diverted Farmers Cash

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The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has described as preposterous claims of diversion of cocoa farmers’ cash by the minority.

According to the Cocoa Board, the move by the minority is primarily intended to incite cocoa farmers and its allied stakeholders against the Board.

In the view of the Board, the posture by the minority sparks of mistrust towards the Board.

The Board insists it mandate to protect the public purse is unalloyed.

“As our mandate to protect the public purse demands, COCOBOD is obliged to ensure safer disbursement of the Seed Fund. We shall not disburse Seed Funds without a security.”

A total of 650 million dollars meant for Ghana’s cocoa sector have been diverted by government and put in investments, the minority in parliament has alleged on Monday.

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 licensed buying companies are struggling to get money to pay farmers.

According to the minority, the amount “may be sitting in secured investments in a couple of banks earning interest whilst the ordinary cocoa farmer is suffering”.

But Joseph Aidoo, Chief Executive of COCOBOD in a statement issued in Accra yesterday said it considers the assertion by the minority as misinformation and attempts by a section of the public and political actors to incite cocoa farmers and other stakeholders to a situation of mistrust towards the Board.”

It said “We would like to urge cocoa farmers in particular, stakeholders and the general public to ignore such claims. The statement raised by the minority does not cover the real issues, but mainly seeks to create an erroneous impression that COCOBOD has diverted the funds meant for cocoa purchase into investments at the expense of cocoa farmers.”

Explaining further, the statement said “The Ghana Cocoa Board drew the first tranche of USD650 million on 4th October, 2018 from the USD1.3 billion syndicated trade facility for cocoa purchases. Per the rules of the internal marketing of cocoa, COCOBOD has allocated Seed Fund to deserving Licensed Buying Companies for cocoa purchases.”

To ensure the safety of public funds, Mr. Aidoo contented that individual LBCs are required to submit bank guarantee to access the Seed Funds to make prompt payments to the farmers for cocoa purchases.

He said per the recommendations of the Producer Price Review Committee (PPRC), COCOBOD, within thirteen days reimburses individual LBCs that deliver cocoa to our three Take-Over Centres the full value (producer price, buyers’ margin and evacuation) to allow the companies to return the cash to the field for cocoa purchases.

By these arrangements, the statement noted that LBCs operating without any challenges with their bankers should not encounter difficulties in accessing the funds from their bank accounts to make prompt payments for cocoa purchases.

The COCOBOD Chief Executive disclosed that there are over 30 LBCs involved in cocoa purchases this season of which PBC is a part adding that PBC submitted bank guarantees up to GH¢390 million which qualified them, and COCOBOD duly released the GH¢390 million to the company at the beginning of the 2018/19 season to pay cocoa farmers.

He noted that “further, COCOBOD has approved additional Seed Fund of GH¢150 million to PBC and reimbursed the company GH¢147 million out of the initial GH¢390 million that they received at the beginning of the season. “

It continued “In total, PBC has been allocated GH¢687 million for cocoa operations. This amount is sufficient to purchase 90,523.07 tonnes of cocoa.

However, since the 2018/19 season opened, it stated that PBC has reported purchases totalling 67,567.31 tonnes. PBC therefore has sufficient funds that can purchase additional 22,955.76 tonnes.”

The statement said per the records, PBC has disbursed GH¢330 million of the initial GH¢390 million for cocoa purchases. An outstanding amount of GH¢60 million released on 30th October 2018 remains unaccounted for by PBC.

“From the foregoing analysis, without any challenges with their bankers, the PBC should possess the financial capacity to pay cocoa farmers without delays.” Mr. Aidoo argued.

He said the claim by the Centre for Socioeconomic Studies (CSS) findings suggest that COCOBOD has “either refused, neglected, or failed to allocate funds to the Licensed Buying Companies, especially Produce Buying Company” is incorrect.

“As a professional research agency, CSS should have contacted COCOBOD for the facts to avoid telling untruths to the general public. Such untruths only succeed at creating unnecessary tensions.

We do not invest monies earmarked for cocoa purchases with the banks. Currently, we have sufficient funds to pay for cocoa purchases from the farmers.”

The COCOBOD Chief Executive urged individual LBCs to maintain good working relationships with their banks and ensure that Seed Funds paid into their bank accounts are used to pay for cocoa purchased from farmers.

“We wish to assure our cherished cocoa farmers and industry stakeholders that their interest will always be protected.”

By: Jeffrey De-Graft Johnson

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