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Cocoa freight negotiation begins

BY: Maclean Kwofi
Mr Vincent Okyere Akomeah (left), MD, CMC, with Ms Benonita Bismarck, CEO, GSA
Mr Vincent Okyere Akomeah (left), MD, CMC, with Ms Benonita Bismarck, CEO, GSA

The Cocoa Marketing Company (CMC) and the Ghana Shippers Authority (GSA) have started processes to negotiate cocoa freight charges for the 2021/2022 cocoa season.

Research and other activities being undertaken by the two entities will form the basis for negotiations at the 2021/22 Cocoa Freight Negotiation Conference in Accra on September 10, this year.

At the conference, 24 shipping lines that ferry cocoa from Ghana to the international market will take turns to negotiate with the CMC and the GSA to determine the rates for the upcoming crop season.

Last year, the negotiating partners agreed to maintain the rates for the current season due to the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Launch

Launching the 2021/2022 Cocoa Freight Negotiation Conference in Accra on August 18, the Managing Director (MD) of the CMC, Mr Vincent Okyere Akomeah, observed that for two decades now, the CMC and the GSA had partnered to engage carriers/shipping lines in the determination of freight charges for the carriage of Ghana’s cocoa beans and other cocoa products from the country to destinations in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

He said the agreed freight charges at the annual cocoa freight negotiation conferences became applicable for each cocoa season, usually from October to September of the ensuing year.

Effective platform

Mr Akomeah said the conferences also provided an effective platform for the GSA and the CMC to engage shipping lines serving Ghana’s cocoa trade for agreements on issues affecting the carriage of the country’s cocoa.

The 2021/22 edition of the annual freight conferences would be the third to be held in the country.

"While the COVID-19 restrictions have played a major part in hosting it consecutively at the same venue, contrary to the established convention, we intend to take full advantage of the opportunity to foster greater local stakeholder participation to deepen relationships for mutually beneficial cooperation among key actors along the cocoa value chain and ultimately the Ghanaian economy,” he said.

GSA’s position

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the GSA, Ms Benonita Bismarck, said although the COVID-19 played a role in maintaining the current rates, it could not be certain that the story would be the same for the upcoming negotiation.

She said ongoing research to understand the economic environment of the sector would guide the negotiation.

Ms Bismarck added that the aim was to ensure that the government got a good deal, while the shipping lines too secured some good margins to stay in business, especially at this time.

Produce projection

The projection for produce receipts for the 2021/2022 crop year inspires confidence, especially on the back of the excellent results for the instant season — exceeding one million tonnes of cocoa as of August 16, 2021.

That represented a volume increase of 37 per cent over that of the same period in the 2019/2020 crop year.

In spite of the challenges imposed on global trade by the COVID-19 pandemic, shipment of cocoa for the season saw a marginal drop of 2.5 per cent, compared to the same period in 2019/2020.

Significantly, nearly 500,000 tonnes of cocoa has been shipped to date this season.

Of that quantity, shipments from Takoradi accounted for 48 per cent, with Tema and Kumasi accounting for 39 per cent and 13 per cent, respectively.

While Takoradi continues to consolidate its leadership as the major take-over centre for cocoa shipments, only few shipping lines patronise the Takoradi Port for purposes of cocoa shipment.

A number of interventions are being put in place by the government to change this state of affairs, principal among which is the construction of a new container terminal with a draught of 16 metres and an expanded area for cocoa, which is expected to be inaugurated by December 2021.