The Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper on Monday inaugurated a 10-member board for the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) with a charge to members to deal with the over $200 million debt owed by local cocoa processing companies.

COCOBOD has over the years been supplying cocoa beans to local processing companies at a discounted price of 20 per cent.

Mr Terkper said while it was government policy to encourage and facilitate enhanced local processing of cocoa to add value to it, generate income and create jobs, some of the local processing companies had not lived up to expectation.

?I am charging the governing Board and Management of COCOBOD to ensure that these monies are retrieved as early as possible. The same applies to Licensed Buying Companies owing COCOBOD huge sums of monies,? Mr Terkper said.

The Minister also tasked the new Board to deal with the threat of illegal surface mining, which is undermining the sustainability of cocoa production in several cocoa districts, in the Western, Central, Ashanti and Eastern regions, as large tracts of cocoa lands and plantations had been destroyed due to the illegal mining activities.

Mr Terkper urged the Board to liaise closely with the national security system to address the menace.

Referring to government continuous support for the sector, the Minister said despite the fall in the world market price of cocoa, government had kept faith with farmers to ensure that they received at least 70 per cent of the free on board cocoa price.

For the 2013/14 season, farmers are being paid GHC212 per bag or GHC3,392 per tonne, representing 79.7 of the Free on Board price.

Mr Terkper asked the Board to work closely with management to sustain the Hitech and the pest and diseases control programmes to help raise the national production.

The Board and Management must also work to resolve all underlying issues of cocoa carriers to avoid congestion at the Tema and Takoradi ports and to help address the cocoa warehousing deficit, as the hiring of private warehouses was putting a strain on the finances of COCOBOD.

The Minister thanked members of the former board for their valuable contributions and urged the current Board to work in partnership with Management to ensure that the sector remained vibrant, resilient and competitive to support the livelihood of millions of people.

Mr Daniel Ohene Agyekum, Chairman of the Board, on behalf of members pledged to work diligently to ensure the sustenance of the cocoa sector and its critical contribution to the livelihood of people.

Other members of the Board include Dr Agyeman-Attuahene Kontor, Mrs Afriyie Haffar, Alhaji Alhassan Bukari and Nana Adjei Damoah.

The rest are Dr Henry Kofi Wampah, Mr Cassiel Ato Forson, Mr Edwin Nii Lantey Vanderpuye, Mr Charles Dodoo and Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni.

Source: GNA


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