The Minority in Parliament has cast doubts on government’s ability to pay back a $2 billion cocoa syndicated loan.
Parliament in July this year approved a loan agreement of about $2 billion between the Ghana Cocoa Board and a consortium of banks solely for the purchase of cocoa beans between 2015 and 2016.
Under the agreement, the Ghana cocoa board is expected to purchase 900 thousand metric tonnes of cocoa to fully pay back the loan. But the minority is warning recent developments in the cocoa sector may make it impossible for government to meet the production target.
According to the New Patriotic Party MPs, cocoa production could decline to just 500,000 metric tonnes within season which will eventually plunge the nation into more debt.
Addressing the media on the developments in the agriculture sector in the last ten years, minority spokesperson on agriculture, Dr. Owusu Afriyie Akoto blamed the situation on a number of issues including what he described as politicization of the mass spraying and fertilizer distribution programme.
He indicated that since Ghana attained the one million tonnes of cocoa production, there has been a consistent decline in output to below 900,000 tonnes.
Dr Afriyie added that, the current 700,000 metric tonnes of cocoa production for the 2014/2015 crop year is the lowest in the past 10 years. This according to him is the reflection of “misguided policies and poor implementation of projects perused by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration not to talk of the corruption that has reared its ugly head in this important industry”.
He questioned why government has maintained the producer price of cocoa at 212 cedis per bag when for the past three years world cocoa prices have gone up and the cedi has also dropped substantially against the dollar.
“Massive smuggling of cocoa and its subsidised inputs into neighbouring countries has a direct consequence on the input distribution system and the product pricing policies of this government”, he said. Dr Afriyie believes that if these issues are not addressed urgently, annual production could decline further in the coming years to below 500,000 metric tonnes.
He further indicated that the inability to pay back the loan will result in the blacklisting of Ghana on the financial market.
The minority also painted a gloomy picture of the production of staple foods as well as increases in the importation of meat, fish and poultry products.
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