$600m loan won’t be misapplied – COCOBOD assures
The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has given an assurance that every cent of the $600 million loan secured from the African Development Bank (AfDB) will be used to enhance the cocoa sector and improve the lot of farmers.
The board said the investments would go to address pertinent challenges drawing back cocoa production in the country.
The Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, M r Joseph Boahen Aidoo,who gave the assurance in an interview with the Daily Graphic in Accra yesterday, said contrary to allegations that portions of the funds would be misapplied on areas other than cocoa production, the board had put in place a monitoring and evaluation mechanism to ensure that the entire amount was spent for the purpose for which it was secured.
That was in line with the transparency and value for money requirements agreed on between the board and the AfDB. Consequently, he has asked the AfDB, cocoa farmers, processors and the public to rest assured that “the money will be put to good use.
“It will be used in the way that we agreed with the lenders and in a way that will help us realise the benefits anticipated out of this exercise,” Mr Aidoo told the Daily Graphic.
Concerns of Minority
The COCOBOD CEO was speaking a day after Parliament approved the $600 million loan facility between the board and the AfDB to be used to improve cocoa production.
The successful approval of the facility last Wednesday was after the failed attempt last Tuesday to secure parliamentary approval for the loan agreement.
The Minority blocked the approval process after alleging that the funds were going to be misapplied, including being used to fund the government’s election 2020 activities.
Before joining the Majority to successfully approve the agreement on November 7, the Minority Leader and National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament for Tamale South, Mr Haruna Iddrisu, said his side was supporting the agreement because they had been assured that their concerns would be addressed.
Those concerns, he said, were that the funds should be channelled into enhancing cocoa production, improving farmer livelihoods, supporting domestic cocoa processors to increase output and modernising the cocoa business in the country.
Potential of cocoa sector
Mr Aidoo said while those concerns were legitimate, they were irrelevant, given that there was no way that the board would misapply the funds.
He said the status of the cocoa industry at the moment required that “something urgent and practical must happen,” hence the decision to resort to the AfDB for the loan.
Should the country not invest to address the challenges in the sector, Mr Aidoo said, it would be difficult for the country to realise the full potential of the cocoa industry.
“For example, at a time when the Cocoa Swollen Shoot Virus Disease (CSSVD) is making us lose around 210,000 tonnes of cocoa in the Western North Region, we are not in any mood to do anything that will derail our efforts to salvage this situation.
“If we sit and don’t act now, the situation will worsen further and that is what these funds are meant to do and so every single Ghanaian must be rest assured that the right things will be done; we will put the funds to proper use,” he said.
He explained that the necessary structures had been put in place to ensure that there was transparency in the disbursement and the utilisation of the money.
“Beyond that, there are measurable targets set for ourselves and so it will be difficult for us to stay outside what has been agreed and so the assurance to the Minority and the Ghanaian public is that the money will be used for the agreed purposes and not for any political exercise,” Mr Aidoo said.
On the need to use the funds to support local processors to increase production, the CEO said such an initiative was dear to the heart of COCOBOD and would be adhered to.
He also charged cocoa farmers to actively participate in all the programmes to be rolled out under the loan agreement to help increase productivity.
Usage of loan
Ghana first opened discussions with the AfDB for the $600 million loan to improve cocoa production in 2017.
The document that requested approval for the loan showed that $140 million would be used to fight the CSSVD; $50 million to build more cocoa warehouses, $200 million to promote domestic processing of cocoa and $10.6 million for establishing a database of cocoa farmers in the country.
It further showed that $40 million will be invested in irrigation services, $68 million in the board’s hand pollination initiative and $7.5 million to promote domestic consumption of cocoa products.
The AfDB is also extending the same credit amount to Cote d’Ivoire under an initiative meant to improve cocoa production in the two biggest growers of the crop.