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13.02.2004 Business & Finance

GUINESS, ABC, others to use sorghum

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Accra, Feb. 13, GNA - Mr. Yaw Osafo Maafo, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, on Friday revealed that government was close to reaching a positive agreement with major alcoholic beverage producers in the country to source sorghum from Northern Ghana for their products. He said, "There is hope for the sorghum farmers in the north because we are talking to GUINESS, Achimota Brewery Company (ABC) and others to cut down on the import of malt from outside and make use of locally grown sorghum from the north."

Mr. Maafo made the revelation in his concluding statement at the end of the debate of the 2004 Budget Statement in Parliament. The budget was later approved unanimously after one hour extended sitting, between 1400 hours and 1500 hours.

He said things were looking up and the alcoholic beverage producers were at the verge of agreeing to government's proposal. Earlier in his submission, the Minister managed to ease the minds of Ghanaians about the claims of cocoa smuggling from La Cote d'Ivoire, which according members of the minority, was largely responsible for the recorded increase in cocoa production from 0.5 per cent to over 16 per cent of GDP.

He said last year, the producer price of cocoa in Cote d'Ivoire was 8.7 million cedis per metric tonne and in Ghana the producer price was 8.5 million cedis, adding that, it therefore did not make economic sense to smuggle from Cote d'Ivoire to Ghana to sell.

"Now we've increased the producer price to nine million cedis per metric tonne, which is a more compelling condition for people to smuggle from Cote d'Ivoire into Ghana," he said.

He debunked an earlier claim by the Minority Leader Alban Bagbin that the cocoa producing areas in Cote d'Ivoire were the areas captured by the rebels and so farmers channelled their produce through Ghana, saying that the Ivorian government exceeded its cocoa purchase target last year.

"Last year, the Ivorian government targeted to buy 1.18 million metric tonnes of cocoa from its local producers, but exceeded the target to 1.23 million metric tones, which means cocoa farmers in that country sold even more to the government," he said.

Mr. Maafo assured the house that government had taken note of all the issues raised by members on both sides of the house and by members of the public and would work at improving upon next year's budget, when given the mandate by the people.

Mrs. Gladys Asmah, Minister of Women and Children's Affairs noted that though the budget did not prescribe any conditions that should necessitate increase in the prices of goods and services, some individual traders and service providers had arbitrarily increases prices.

She called on the Ministry of Trade and Industry to check the arbitrary price increases, especially in transport fares in some areas to ensure that the populace enjoyed the full benefits of the budget. Mr. Joseph Aidoo, Western Regional Minister noted that between 1990 and 2000, GDP experienced fluctuation in the growth pattern, but for the three years that the NPP has been in power, there had been consistent upward growth.

"Between 1990 and 1991 GDP growth rate was 3.3 per cent, in 1992 it was 5.3 per cent, 1993 it fell to 3.9 per cent and rose to 5.0 per cent in 1994, declined to 3.8 in 1995, 4.6 in 1996, 4.7 in 1998 and finally 3.7 in 2000," he said.

He said since the NPP came into government, GDP growth rate took off from 3.7 in 2000 to 4.2 in 2001, 4.5 in 2002 and 5.2 last year, which indicated a consistent increase in the growth rate pattern.

Mr. Aidoo said consistent GDP growth rate, coupled with the low reduction in inflation and interest rates and the massive tax relieves and incentives announced in the budget, had set the tone for business to grow in the country.

"As a government we are faced with the challenge of ensuring growth, development and betterment at various points and we have opted to tackle growth first, which is about creating the enabling macro-economic environment for businesses to growth and the result will be development and betterment of the lives of our people," he said.

Mr. Abuga Pele, NDC-Chiana-Paga noted that it was a fallacy for the Western Regional Minister to suggest that the measures they had put in place in the budget would ensure a better future for Ghanaians.

He said the so-called tax relieves and tax holidays were not new introductions by the NPP government, adding that they already existed but were not accessed because industry and business did not operate much in the areas where they could benefit from those tax holidays.

Mr. Richard Anane announced that by the close to the year an aero-bridge would be provided at the Kotoka International Airport to convey passengers into and from the aeroplanes instead of walking on the tarmac to and from the plane.

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