UPDATE 1-Ghana signs $1.2 bln cocoa loan for 2013/14 crop purchases

ACCRA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Ghana’s cocoa industry regulator Cocobod has signed a $1.2 billion syndicated loan from international banks for 2013/14 cocoa crop purchases as against $1.5 billion for 2012/13, it said on Friday.

The credit facility between Cocobod and a consortium of international and local banks, led by French lender Societe General, will enable Cocobod to raise funds to purchase 830,000 tonnes of cocoa from farmers for the season.

Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa exporter after Ivory Coast. It aims to raise its production to an average of 1 million tonnes annually from 800,000 tonnes through improved farming methods and better incentives.

The loan, which was oversubscribed as in previous years, is the largest soft commodity deal in sub-Saharan Africa, Cocobod spokesman Noah Amenyah said.

“It is aimed at ensuring that cocoa farmers in Ghana are paid fairly and promptly for their cocoa produce,” he said. The new season is expected to begin early next month.

Lead arrangers include Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd., Rand Merchant Bank, Crédit Agricole Corporate & Investment Banking, Nedbank and Ghana International Bank Plc UK.