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28.04.2010 Agriculture

Illegal Cocoa Trade Along Western Corridor - 3 Firms Banned

Three cocoa marketing companies have been banned by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) from operating along the country’s western corridor.

A letter to that effect indicated that the companies, Armajaro Ghana Limited, Diabe and Transroyal, were among those indicted in an undercover video footage on the operations of officials involved in the smuggling of cocoa across the country’s border with Cote d’Ivoire.

In the letter, dated April, 2010, Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Mr Anthony Fofie, expressed the board’s deep abhorrence of the active involvement of some members of staff of the three companies “in facilitating the smuggling of cocoa across Ghana’s border as captured in the video footage in the undercover operations undertaken by an investigative journalist and shown on national television earlier this month”.

The letter asserted the board’s authority as the regulator of the industry and said in pursuance of its mandate and following the involvement of the companies’ members of staff in the nefarious activity, it considered it expedient to impose an indefinite ban on the three companies.

The ban, which takes immediate effect, prohibits the three companies from operating along the western corridor, which includes the Dormaa Ahenkro, Nkrankwanta, Bonsu Nkwanta, Debiso, Essam, Sefwi Kaase, Enchi, Dadieso and Elubo districts.

Key industry players and the relevant state officials, including the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Chairman of COCOBOB, Director of Special Duties at COCOBOD and the National Security Adviser have, accordingly, been notified.

Meanwhile, In a six-page letter in reaction to the ban, one of the affected companies, Armajaro, asked COCOBOD to take a second look at the decision.

Signed by its Managing Director, Mr Rahul Gopinath Nair, the letter said it was disappointed that most of the evidence it presented at the meeting to justify its corporate innocence in cocoa smuggling, including initiatives to support and enhance best practices in the industry, had not been taken into consideration.

The company further stated that it was at a loss as to why a video that actually paid tribute to its staff for not only resisting smuggling but also helping in the arrest of a group of undercover agents could be used as evidence to “ban our operations on the basis of Mr Kwateng’s singular conduct who appeared to co-operate with the smuggling business”.

It said COCOBOD’s sanctions “will irreparably damage our business in the country and put in jeopardy the living conditions of people connected with our business”.

Currently, Armajaro is the third largest buyer of cocoa from farmers in the western corridor. It trades with over 75,000 farmers, employ about 1,500 people and deliver livelihoods to over 100,000 families in the rural areas.

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