The Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), in a bid to meet its target of producing 1 million tonnes of cocoa by 2020 and expand its processing capacity, has turned to the China EXIM Bank for financing of up to $1.5 billion.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of COCOBOD, Joseph Aidoo, revealed on Wednesday that the board was seeking $1.5 billion from China’s EXIM Bank to improve its cocoa farms, fix irrigation systems and other projects to boost cocoa production.

This is apart from the current funding of $35 billion from the Chinese bank to finance the construction of a 40,000-tonne cocoa processing plant.

“We have been in discussions since last year to secure $1.5 billion to finance our plans mainly to replant diseased and aged trees, build warehouses and cocoa roads to improve farmers’ income, and also provide irrigation in the face of changing climate conditions,” said Mr Aidoo.

Africa’s second largest producer of cocoa has been seeking different ways to improve production and processing of cocoa in the country in order to reap the full benefits of the global cocoa market.

As the world’s second-largest cocoa exporter after Ivory Coast, it produces an average of 800,000 tonnes of beans per year, with plans to reach 1 million tonnes by 2020.

But the country presently processes about 250,000 tonnes, Mr Aidoo said.

The Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, disclosed earlier this year at an investors forum that Ghana only earns about $2.5 billion from cocoa annually even though the global market is worth over $100 billion.

Thus in order to earn more from the global market, the West African country is focusing on processing cocoa it produces in order to tap into the market of the derivatives from cocoa — the market for chocolate is as big as the market for cocoa beans.

The 40,000-tonne processing plant is a step in the right direction, as the factory will run through the entire course of producing butter, cake, liquor, cake and then chocolate bars,” the CEO of COCOBOD explained.

“We have been looking for a market for the consumption of cocoa. With the conventional market becoming stagnant, adding value to our cocoa will broaden our market space,” he added.

Also, to exert more control on the prices of cocoa on the global market the West Africa country signed an agreement, Abidjan Declaration, with Ivory Coast, the world’s largest producer of cocoa, to embark on a common strategy and a sustainable solution to increase prices for cocoa producers and align marketing policies.

Mr. Aidoo said the new processing plant, which is estimated to cost $60 million, will be built in Sefwi-Wiawso in the Western Region, adding that the Ghanaian government would absorb the remaining cost after China’s EXIM Bank pumps in $35 million.

The EXIM Bank is one of three institutional banks in China to implement its policies in industry, foreign trade, diplomacy, economy, and provide policy financial support so as to promote the export of Chinese products and services.

China EXIM Bank also provides concessional funding for major projects in other developing countries.

Over the last year, the total volume of import and export between Ghana and China was $6.6 billion, with China’s export at $4.8 billion and the import from Ghana at about $1.8 billion.