The minority New Patriotic Party (NPP) spokesperson for Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, has expressed disquiet about the shutting down of the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC) on Monday, forcing many employees to be sent home.
He said that the government must bow its head in shame for allowing the cocoa industry to decline to the extent that the only cocoa processing company in the country could be closed down because of indebtedness and lack of cocoa beans.
“This is a sad story for the nation. A country that produces cocoa and has once been the leading producer of cocoa in the world cannot get cocoa beans to feed our cocoa processing factory with the implications being that workers are being laid off and resultant huge revenue losses to the state,” Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto bemoaned.
The company was shut down after churning out President Mahama and wife, Lordina-branded chocolates for distribution during the Christmas festivities. CPC, according to reports, could not meet its financial obligations and has as a result, sent the about 1,000 workers home on indefinite leave.
The minority spokesperson, who was speaking to DAILY GUIDE on behalf of the NPP Members of Parliament (MPs), said that the reason given by the management of the company that the plants had been shut down for maintenance was a piece of red-herring and that the reality is that the company went for a $60 million loan from the local banks for the rehabilitation of its plants five years ago. But since the cedi had depreciated so much over the period, the company now finds itself in a difficult situation to pay back the loan.
“The cedi is flat on its back as a result of the incompetent administration of this government, with the company being swallowed by debts and so they can no longer import cocoa beans from Cote d’Ivoire to feed their plants,” he noted.
According to Dr Afriyie Akoto, the CPC has a grinding and processing capacity of 360,000 metric tonnes of cocoa a year but currently, the available cocoa for local consumption is 120,000 metric tonnes and so the company is forced to import cocoa beans from Cote d’Ivoire to be able to fully operate.
He indicated that the bad policy of this government had affected production of cocoa in the country – which now stands at 740,000 metric tonnes from a high of 1,000,000 metric tonnes that the country was producing in 2008 when the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government took over from President Kufuor’s NPP administration.
“First of all, the government is not paying cocoa farmers well; fertilizers meant for cocoa farmers are being diverted by officials and the mass cocoa spraying programme introduced by the NPP has completely collapsed,” he said, adding that all these and other factors had combined to seriously affect cocoa production in the country.
Dr Akoto said the workers who have been affected by the shutdown of the company must be well compensated to be able to take care of their families for the rest of their lives.
“This government is indeed a real incompetent one and must be voted out of power to save the nation from further destruction,” he pointed out.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr