Five out of the 10 indigenous cocoa processing companies in the country owe the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) $250 million in unpaid bills under the Old Beans Supply Agreement.
That development has compelled COCOBOD to take drastic measures to halt the continued supply of cocoa beans to the companies to save the board from going bankrupt.
The move is likely to affect more than 6,000 permanent and casual workers of the companies and their outsource service providers across the country.
The amount owed COCOBOD ranges from $3 million to more than $50 million per company since 2010.
The companies are Plot Enterprise Ghana, Afro Tropical, Real Commodities, West African Mills Company (WAMCO) and the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC).
Under the Old Beans Supply Agreement, companies buying from COCOBOD neither needed to pay upfront nor get a guarantor.
The companies were at liberty to lift the produce, process for sale and later pay COCOBOD its due.
The Head of Marketing at COCOBOD, Mr Edem Amegashie, made this known to the Daily Graphic in response to a distress call by some workers of Plot Enterprise, a wholly Ghanaian-owned cocoa processing company in Takoradi.
The workers had complained to the Daily Graphic that they had not undertaken any production since February 2014 because the premises of the company had been virtually closed down.
They replied in the affirmative when asked whether their salaries were still being paid, with one of their leaders adding, “We are not sure how long our employers will continue to pay us for no work done. If that happens, you can imagine the problem.”
Mr Amegashie told the Daily Graphic that Plot Enterprise owed COCOBOD to the tune of $43 million.
“After a lot of pressure, the management of Plot came and paid $10 million and are yet to settle the remaining $33 million,” he said.
The Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Dr Stephen Kwabena Opuni, said Ghanaian firms were capitalising on the fact that they were being supported to stay in business and create jobs.
“We cannot run this country like that. We are very much aware of the fact that the government pledged support for local companies, but that does not mean that the companies can drive to our premises, haul the produce and refuse to pay,” he said.
Dr Opuni said the finances of COCOBOD were going bad, adding that one person or group of people should not be allowed to hold the country to ransom.
Plot Enterprise engages more than 122 workers, as well as about 600 others contracted to provide various services for the company.
When the Daily Graphic visited the plant, which was inaugurated by President John Evans Atta Mills in February 2011, only six technical staff members were within the premises.
The company produces cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and cocoa cake for the local and international markets, with an investment amounting to $40 million.
It was one of the largest single investments by a wholly owned Ghanaian non-governmental corporate body in the last decade.
The company, according to officials, fitted perfectly into the government’s policy of enhancing value addition to agricultural produce and raw materials of local origin.
Some members of staff of Plot Enterprise who pleaded anonymity said the company had very great potential.