September 20, 2018 / 10:49 AM / 25 days ago

UPDATE 2-Ghana's Cocobod signs $1.3 bln syndicated loan for 2018/19 cocoa buying

* World no.2 grower seeks additional $300 mln medium-term loan

* Ghana, Ivory Coast to announce farmers’ prices on Oct.1

* Ghana’s 2017/18 production tally tops 900,000 tonnes (Adds talks for additional loan, concurrent pricing)

By Kwasi Kpodo

ACCRA, Sept 20 (Reuters) - Ghana’s Cocobod signed a $1.3 billion loan with international banks on Thursday to finance beans purchases for the 2018/19 season and is seeking additional funds to boost farm productivity, its director said.

Joseph Boahen Aidoo said Cocobod was in talks with lenders for a $300 million medium-term facility to fight cocoa diseases, expand hand pollination and other agronomic practices aimed at increasing yield.

Ghana, the world’s second largest producer, uses loans from international banks every year mainly for bean purchases. It aims to buy at least 900,000 tonnes of cocoa from farmers in the upcoming season starting early next month.

“We’ve decided that we must have a separate financing, apart from the annual facility, to prosecute medium-to-long term programmes. We have already had favourable conversations with the banks and this afternoon we’re meeting to look at some of the arrangements,” Aidoo said in a video call with reporters in Accra after Thursday’s signing in Amsterdam.

The annual loan, the largest pre-export soft commodity financing facility in sub-Saharan Africa, was oversubscribed by $550 million, or 42 percent. Lead arrangers were Amro Bank, Bank of China, Standard Chartered Bank, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, and Ghana International Bank.

Some 21 lenders participated and Cocobod will repay over 12 months with an interest rate of Libor plus 0.625 percent. “At the moment we are looking for $300 million from these banks to start with so that we can use it to address some of these long-term programmes and challenges, such as irrigation which could help farmers easily double production,” Aidoo said. Cocobod expects to draw down the first tranche of the syndicated $1.3 billion in early October to give to buyers for the purchases, he said. For the first time in decades, Ghana and Ivory Coast will simultaneously announce farmers’ producer prices on Oct. 1, as part of an agreement to harmonise marketing and other industry activities, Aidoo said. Two senior Cocobod officials told Reuters Ghana’s cocoa price setting committee had begun meetings ahead of the Oct.1 announcement, but they declined to indicate whether there will be any change in price. Ghana currently pays its farmers 7,600 cedis per tonne of cocoa. Aidoo said purchases tally for the 2017/18 crop year, which closed on Sept 13, reached 903,000 tonnes, almost the same level as the previous season. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; editing by Jason Neely and Alexandra Hudson)

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