Friday, September 23, 2016

Cocobod’s US$1.8b syndicated loan ready in two-weeks

Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) says it secured US$1.8 billion syndicated loan from a consortium of banks to allow it purchase cocoa beans for the 2016/2017 crop season beginning next month will hit Bank of Ghana’s account within the next two weeks. 
“The money will soon hit the account. Normally we will have to give them about a week or two weeks to finish processing all the documents and then transfer the money to Bank of Ghana’s account. Then we open the season,” said Noah Kwesi Amenyah, Public Affairs Manager of Cocobod at a media conference in Accra after the signing ceremony that took place in Frankfurt.

It is expected that the US$1.8 billion loan will help improve the Bank’s international reserves as well as help stabilize the cedi in the coming months. 

The facility was signed by Dr. Stephen Kwabena Opuni, the Chief Executive Officer of the Cocobod and was witnessed by Mr. Ato Forson, a Deputy Minister of Finance and Ms Akua Sena Dansua, Ghana’s Ambassador to Germany.

The syndicated loan which is in its 24th time was oversubscribed by US$640 million and there is the opportunity to pick up an additional US$200 million when there is the need for it. 

The facility comes with an all-inclusive rate of 1.468 per cent with a four-month moratorium and seven months repayment period, which starts in February 2017 and will be completed in August 2017.

The lead arrangers are Deutsche Bank, Natixis, Cooperative Rabobank, Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi, Nedbank, Societe Generale, Standard Chartered Bank, Ghana International Bank and DZ Bank.

Dr. Opuni explained that the Board is committed to using the funds to improve the livelihood of farmers in the country and also ensure prompt payment of the purchase of cocoa beans from farmers.
“The loan facility will ensure that cocoa farmers in the country receives prompt payment for their produce,” he said.

Dr. Opuni explained that the cocoa industry was confronted with some challenges, including the decline in soil fertility, ageing cocoa farmers, overaged cocoa farms, climate change and cocoa swollen shoot virus.

Dr Opuni said the Government had supported cocoa farmers to improve upon the soil fertility of their cocoa farms through the free fertiliser distribution programme, fungicides and insecticides to cocoa farmers for spraying their farms against pest and diseases.

He said the government had distributed 50 million seedlings to cocoa farmers and increase it to 60 million seedlings in 2016 to support farmers to rehabilitate overaged cocoa farms, diseased farms and those starting new farms.

Dr. Opuni explained that all these interventions were expected to add another 500,000 metric tonnes to 750,000 tonnes of cocoa after the next 10 years to the current yield.

Production target
Cocobod is confident of purchasing between 850,000 and 900,000 tonnes of beans during the 2016/2017 crop year.

Mr. Amenyah confirmed that there are signs that this year the Board will attain its projected target.

Ghana operates a two-cycle cocoa year consisting of a 33-week main crop (October-June), which is mainly exported to Europe and Asia, and the minor light crop (11-week), which is discounted to local processing firms including the state-owned Cocoa Processing Company (CPC).

Ghana produced an unprecedented one million tonnes of cocoa during the 2010-11crop-year, thanks to good weather and improved farming techniques, but production declined to about 750,000 tonnes last season. Cocobod said cocoa production tends to fall slightly after a bumper year.

Government in 2015/16 crop year, announced to pay cocoa farmers an amount of GH¢ 6,720 per tonne, an increase in the producer price of cocoa from the 2014/15 season figure of  5,520 per tonne, despite a slump in the crop’s world price.

Ghana is the second-biggest producer of cocoa in the world, with an estimated 800,000 people said to benefit directly from cocoa production.

Shea butter export reaches US$64m

…but its planting is still seen as taboo

Export earnings from shea butter products last year reached US$64 million, up from US$52 million in 2014, a 23 percent growth over the previous year, according to the latest figures from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA).

In 2014, the sector recorded a growth rate of about 100 percent in export earnings when it increased from US$26 million in 2013 to US$52million in 2014. In the past five years, shea has been part of the top ten leading Non-Traditional export products from the country.

Within the agriculture sub-sector for instance, shea nuts was the second highest export earner with US$34 million in 2015 behind cashew nuts.

Despite the importance of shea to the country exports, many shea tree growing communities in the Upper East Region still believe that it is a taboo to plant the cash tree.

 “The people believe that if you plant a shea tree and it starts to bear fruit you will die. Most of the old trees are dying and they are not being replaced because of this belief that the people hold,” Lucy A. Akanboyuure, a gender activist, championing women empowerment in the Kassena-Nankana West District of the Upper East Region told the B&FT. 

She explained that the situation poses a threat to livelihood in the area, particularly women who have long been collecting and processing shea nuts into shea butter for ages. 

The shea industry in northern Ghana is mainly centered on women. Approximately 16 million rural women in Africa contribute to their livelihoods and support their family and children's education by collecting, processing, and selling shea kernels and butter for local consumption or export. 

In spite of the fact that women do not own shea farms, shea butter has been traditionally extracted by women from the dried kernels of the shea tree for many years. 

This notwithstanding, shea farmers in the country say the absence of any form of support and effort by government to grow the sector is seriously affecting their activities. 

“We have never received any form of support from anywhere to help us increase our yield. We need roads, especially bridges because when it rains we are unable to cross the many water bodies to our farms and it is when it rains that the reaped fruits fall off. So when this happens, animals usually eat up the fruits which is not good for us,” said Akurigo Samuel, whose family operates a large shea farm located in a town called Kandiga in the Kassena-Nankana District of the Upper East Region.

The sector, just like many others in the country is not streamlined and the cash tree still continue to suffer from bad farming practices and cultural beliefs.

Annually, bush fires resulting from bad farming practices destroy many hectares of shea farms in shea growing communities in the three northern regions. The tree is also battling deforestation as more and more people are moving to settle on lands where the plants used to grow.

 “Much needs to be done for the sector because a lot of women’s livelihood and their families is at stake. Yields are decreasing yearly because old trees are not getting replaced and things can’t continue like this. NGOs are doing their best but the government also need to turn its attention to the sector,” Mrs. Akanboyuure added.

MOBA calls for problem solving students

The country’s development depends on how practical its education is in order to make students problem solvers to help with industrialization, distinguished members of the Mfantsipim Old Boys Association (MOBA) have said at the maiden edition of their annual engagement series.  
“Ghana’s prosperity depends on the practicality of education: from primary to the universities,” Anis Haffar, and educationist and a MOBA said.

“The problems associated with youth unemployment across Ghana are so alarming that for our graduates to be processed out of tertiary institutions, year after year, without the skills to solve problems or opportunities to be entrepreneurs is a great disservice to the continent,” he added.

The event, which featured four panelists speaking on education, industry, infrastructure and finance, encouraged students to strive to solve problems and engage in more research.

Anis Haffar, who has designed and conducted numerous workshops and teacher education seminars over the years, indicated that many of today’s teaching methods stifle both understanding and skills building.
“The point is simply this: where there are no practical connections to the subjects being taught, there cannot be any appreciable commitment by the learner. And where one cannot develop the skills to apply what is learned to create anything useful, what then is education for?” he asked.

He appealed to teachers to adopt the “Problem Posing Approach”, a more interactive method of teaching, to enable students take active part in teaching and learning.

According to him, the method was proposed by Mr Paulo Freire, a Brazilian educationist, in his book titled “Pedagogy of the Oppressed in Modern Education”.

He urged teachers not to consider themselves as the repository of knowledge and to allow students to contribute to teaching and to study to gain the expected results.

He said students must move away from the rote learning: ‘chew, pour, pass and forget’ syndrome to the application of scientific and mathematical principles to solve societal challenges.

Mr Haffar said rote learning is the bane of innovative, critical thinking and the application of scientific and technological principles to solve problems.

He called for an educational restructure where students would be oriented to contribute to national development by solving societal problems and create a jobs for themselves.

The annual engagement series was on the topic: “Advancing Ghana’s Progress Through Effective Professionalism Thinking and Looking Ahead- Dwen Hwe Kan’’.

Former Volta River Authority (VRA) boss, Kweku Awotwi, who is also a MOBA, highlighted the importance of education, asking government to invest more in it. 

Another speaker, Prof. Bernard Baiden, Dean of the KNUST Business School, sought to find out whether the country has been planning, and added that the resource envelope of government has been shrinking and all over the world governments are looking elsewhere.

He also pointed out that the infrastructure space, specifically construction in Ghana is being dominated by foreigners and reckons that they are not doing something different that Ghanaians cannot do. “We need to create the right atmosphere for Ghanaians to participate,” he added. 

Patrick Kittoe, Chief Credit Officer at Sovereign Bank Limited also spoke on public finance and the fact that the country should be managing its resources like “a business man.”

He also stressed that financing needs to look into the future “so we have to grow start-ups as well as embrace innovation, by developing a national mindset that gives us the opportunity to do new things.”