Government must come clear on the $600m COCOBOD Loan

As the government is bent on acquiring a Ghc3.3 billion the equivalent of US$600 million for the purpose of investment in the Cocoa sector under the Productivity Enhancement Programmes (PEP) amidst the duplications in the itemized expenditure patterns outlines in the loan agreement with the African Development Bank (AfDB), it is important to interrogate the purpose of this facility which was apparently budgeted for and expended in the 2017/2018 crop season.

In the 2017/2018 crop season, we are told government secured a US$1.3 billion, the equivalent of Ghc7.15 billion from the syndicated loan market for improvement in the cocoa sector. For the avoidance of doubt, I quote the Finance Minister in paragraph 402 of the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy presented to Parliament for approval “Mr. Speaker, for the 2017/18 crop year, an amount of US$1.3 billion was raised in the syndicated loan market. The loan was acquired to fund purchases of cocoa as well as support other key interventions in the cocoa sector”.

Further, in the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy, the Finance Minister presents that moribund cocoa farms were identified and new seedlings planted. In paragraph 409, the budget statement contains “In addition, it re-energised the rehabilitation of existing farms, replanting of old and moribund cocoa farms as well as cutting and replanting diseased cocoa trees”. In the US$600 million loan, the government intends nothing less than what was done in the 2017/2018 crop season. As a matter of fact, Ghc460 million of the Ghc3.3 billion is set aside for the rehabilitation of moribund cocoa farms.

It is interesting to note that a whooping US$68,111,111.11 the equivalent of Ghc375 million, has been earmarked in the AfDB US$600 million loan for artificial pollination. In the 2018 budget, in paragraph 413, the Finance Minister presented that COCOBOD had identified low yielding farms which were hand pollinated, “Mr. Speaker, for the first time, COCOBOD introduced hand pollination on cocoa farms, with the aim of enhancing productivity per hectare. This initiative is to raise the number of pods per tree by at least three folds, and to increase productivity from an average 450kg per hectare to more than 1,300kg per hectare”.

It is also worthy of note that while paragraphs 408 to 410 of the 2018 budget was dedicated to rehabilitation of cocoa farms, which had resulted in replanting of diseased cocoa trees, the Ghc3.3 billion being sourced by the government from AfDB has a whooping Ghc516 million dedicated to replanting of treated farms with another Ghc25 million earmarked for re-inspection of treated farms.

While paragraph 406 of the 2018 budget statement was dedicated to cocoa consumption and promotional activities, we have another Ghc41.2 million of the Ghc3.3 billion loan facility set aside for promotion of domestic consumption. In the 2018 budget, the Finance Minister captured this activity as “Mr. Speaker, COCOBOD embarked on a campaign of promoting the consumption of cocoa both domestically and internationally”. It is important to know what became of the “domestically and internationally” promotion to warrant the dedication of a whooping Ghc41.2 million to only promotion for the purpose of domestic consumption.

In an agreement that has Ghc59 million dedicated to the collection of farmer database, it raises question of the quality of work done in the previous activities under the PEP project which enabled government to do what it claimed to have done in the 2017/2018 crop year and what the 2018 budget intended doing at the time. If these statistics were not in the hands of government, how did the government ascertain the moribund farms and for the replacement of farms affected by diseases?

With these obvious duplications for the use of such huge sums of money that adds up to our national debt stock, it is important for government to come clear and to provide us with the appropriate statistics on the use of the allocated funds for COCOBOD PEP programmes contained in the 2018 Budget Statement and Economic Policy of government.

The irresistible conclusion available to be drawn from the evidence is that clearly Government has gone for monies to supposedly do what it has actually done already in the 2017 and 2018 cocoa planting season. So this money is being applied to something markedly different from what Gov’t has stated on paper. As a result, government must answer these critical questions to the people of Ghana:

  1. How many times does government intend to spend millions to replant the same identified moribund cocoa farms within 2 years?

  2. How many times does government intend to spend millions to train 20,000 people to undertake same hand pollination exercise in 2 years?

  3. How many times does government intend to spend millions to develop and install the same systems to irrigate the same identified and selected cocoa farms in the cocoa growing Districts?

  4. How many times does government intend to spend millions to count cocoa farmers and their farms in 2 years?

  5. How many times does government intend to spend millions to promote the consumption of cocoa products in Ghana in 2 years?

  6. How many times does government intend to spend millions to treat swollen shoot disease in the same identified and selected cocoa farms in 2 years?

These are the burning questions that need answers for I suspect that the US$600 million AfDB cash is meant for something else other than enhancing productivity in the cocoa subsector.

Rockson-Nelson E.K. Dafeamekpor Esq.
MP, South Dayi

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