MPs Clash Over $600m Cocoa Loan

THE MINORITY in Parliament yesterday locked horns with the Majority over whether to approve a loan facility of $600 million for the Cocoa Productivity Enhancement Programmes to be undertaken by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).

The two main political parties clashed on the itemized expenditure of the loan facility.

According to the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Dr Mark Assibey-Yeboah, who presented the committee’s report for approval, $140.2 million would be used for the rehabilitation of cocoa farms infected by the swollen shoot virus; $82.7 million for the rehabilitation of moribund farms; $200 million for cocoa processing; $6 8.1 million for hand pollination; $40.6 million for farm irrigation; $50 million for increasing the capacities of warehouses; $10.6 million for developing a database for farmers and $7.5 million for promoting cocoa consumption.

But Cassiel Ato Forson, ranking member of the Finance Committee, who led the Minority, raised a number of concerns.

According to him, he did not understand why the loan was for three years but COCOBOD had decided to take the loan over just six months.

He also argued that the memorandum from COCOBOD which was presented to the committee members indicated that $5 million had been budgeted for chocolate provision to school children.

Again, he said the amount earmarked for processing cocoa domestically could be used to build four new processing factories.

Furthermore, he said he did not understand why the government would spend $10 million on the preparation of a database for farmers while farmers already had associations and farming groups.

The Minority therefore objected to the approval of the loan facility and called it a ‘dubious’ expenditure.

But in defense, the Majority, led by William Quaittoo,  MP for Oda, argued that the loan was for productivity in the cocoa sector, given the limited land space for the production of the crop.

He also said it was important for the government to promote cocoa consumption locally.

Additionally, he said storage and warehousing capacities could be increased as part of export control measures while also about 30,000 young people were billed for employment to do hand pollination.

Since there was no quorum, Joseph Osei-Owusu, First Deputy Speaker, who presided over proceedings, deferred the vote on the loan approval to the next sitting.

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