Accra, Sept.22, GNA- President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday said the 850 million-dollar trade finance loan for the purchase of cocoa for the 2004/2005 season was epoch making to boost the industry in Ghana.
He said the signing of the agreement in Ghana was an indication of the confidence the Government had enjoyed on the international market. President Kufuor made the observation when signatories to the agreement paid a courtesy call on him at the Castle, Osu. He said with the socio-economic problems associated with developing countries and the banks to venture such a capital into Ghana to support the life-blood of the economy was the best the Government could have for the future.
President Kufuor pledged the Government's commitment to continue with the partnership and support from donor partners to boost the industry.
He said the Government's confidence in the industry had been boosted in its determination to diversify the economy. President Kufuor said about 18 per cent of the cocoa beans were being processed in the past and this had increased to 31 per cent currently and would be further boosted with the support and co-operation from development partners.
Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo said initially the banks agreed to assist with 750 million dollars but this was increased with an additional 100 million dollars due to the polices and programmes being implemented by the Government to increase production.
These, he said, were improvement in the producer price for the farmer, improvement in the conditions of the farms through the mass spraying exercise and provision of insecticides and other inputs and the environment such as feeder roads to the farms.
Mr Osafo-Maafo said the European Union (EU) had pledged 30 million Euros for the industry and 10 million Euros out of the amount would be used specifically to improve conditions in the cocoa growing areas. Sherazam Mazari, Chief Executive Officer of Standard Chartered Bank Africa Region, one of the lead banks of the syndication, said it was a successful transaction because of the political and economic stability in the country.
He said this was coupled with the Government's economic policies and strategies as well as its priorities to boost the economy. "We are committed to your country for the sound economic strategy the Government had put in place", he added.
The agreement was signed between the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and a consortium of 36 banks, including four Ghanaian banks. It was signed by the Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Mr Kwame Sarpong, representatives of the banks and Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo Minister of Finance and Economic Planning.
This is the first time a syndicated loan agreement was signed in Ghana since COCOBOD started borrowing from the private sector in 1994 to finance the purchase of beans.
Ghana has recorded the highest volume of over 700,000 tonnes, representing a 30 per cent rise over the long existing record production of 580,000 tonnes in the 1964/65 cocoa year.