* Ghana to review cocoa contracts signed by previous
* Traders say no slowdown in exports
* Licensed buyers say Cocobod delayed payments
(Adds quotes, comment, context)
By Matthew Mpoke Bigg
ACCRA, March 29 The $1.8 billion syndicated loan
Ghana procured to purchase cocoa for the 2016-17 season "is all
gone" and the country must seek more funding to make purchases
for the rest of the season, the new chairman of industry
regulator Cocobod said.
Ghana is the world's second biggest producer of cocoa behind
neighbouring Ivory Coast and the crop, whose season runs from
October to September, is one of its top foreign exchange earners
along with gold and oil.
As a result, the problem is an additional headache for the
new government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, which is also
trying to stabilize national finances under an International
Monetary Fund programme and restore rapid economic growth.
"The syndicated loan of $1.8 billion that we had hoped to
use for this production year unfortunately ... is all gone ...
So it falls on us to immediately try and organise some
financing," Cocobod's Hackman Owusu-Agyemang said at his
He gave no details on what he believed had happened to the
money or how Cocobod would go about securing additional
However, a senior government official told Reuters the
shortfall was linked to wider mismanagement at Cocobod. The
official, who declined to be named, said the government was now
cleaning up the regulator and seeking to impose strong financial
management, efforts he believed would encourage banks to
participate in next season's syndicated loan.
Cocobod purchased more than 670,000 tonnes from the start of
the season to March 9 and a Dutch trader said the regulator,
which sold forward the bulk of its crop when prices were high
last year, may already have recouped this season's loan amount.
Owusu-Agyemang said Cocobod must tackle a debt overhang of
at least 5 billion cedis ($1.1 billion) and will review all
contracts signed by the previous government, adding that some of
them looked "out of place".
Depletion of the loan potentially explains licensed cocoa
buyers' complaints in February that delays in the release of
Cocobod financing were hindering their ability to purchase beans
needed to fill their supply contracts.
Those delays particularly impacted local buyers who rely on
Cocobod for advance financing. One buyer told Reuters that
Cocobod was still only paying sporadically and the problem was
the worst in years.
But three traders said on Wednesday they had seen no
slowdown in exports of cocoa from Ghana.
Owusu-Agyemang's revelation concerning the loan comes as
Ivory Coast is facing a crisis in its own cocoa sector brought
on by a wave of export contract defaults and higher than
expected production that have created a glut of beans.
(Additional reporting by Nigel Hunt in London; Editing by Joe
Bavier and David Evans)