As the nation continues on the path of a post-pandemic economic recovery, the entire gamut of its cocoa value chain remains one of the most critical rallying points and would significantly shape medium to long-term development.
This is according to the Managing Director of the Universal Merchant Bank (UMB), Nana Benneh Dwemoh, who has pledged the support of the bank to the buy- and sell-side of the value-chain, noting that “collaboration is the new competition.”
Touting the role the indigenous lender has played in the sector, including banking stakeholders from the regulator to license buying companies (LBCs), Mr. Dwemoh noted that the bank’s 50 years of actively engaging stakeholders has built it a wealth of experience, head and shoulders, above any of its peers.
“Cocoa is an integral part of the Ghanaian economy and has been for a long time, and likewise, UMB has been an integral part of the Ghanaian economy since 1972, we have played an active role in engagements with stakeholders along the cocoa value chain,” he said in an interview with the B&FT at the 3rd edition of Ghana Cocoa Dinner & Awards.
With Ghana exceeding its produce for the past crop season; attaining a historic 1.1 million metric tonnes of bean production during the period, and the global value of cocoa products alone projected to grow by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.1% to hit $30.2 billion by 2026, Mr. Benneh said Ghana is poised to reap rewards from numerous interventions in the sector, including those provided by his outfit.
Market share target
The bank’s dominance in the sector, Mr. Dwemoh added, is quite evident as the LBCs which receive financial and advisory support from UMB account for 35 percent of the market, a rate, he said, will grow to a “minimum of 50 percent in the medium term.”
Continuing further, he explained that UMB’s suite of financing options now caters to every point of the value chain from haulage logistics, warehousing, the financing of fertilisers, and other chemicals for farmers to use in improving the seedlings and harvest output, aided by a dedicated desk for the sub-sector.
“We also finance the movement of cocoa from the farm gate to the port and to that we have financed over 100 trucks to these LBCs for over three years. We also have stepped it further to finance the offshoots of these LBCs including financing the purchase of fertilizers for some of the players and the value chain of the sub-sector,” he remarked.
He added that the bank had grown its financing to the sector by more than 29 percent, from GH¢270 million, last year, to more than GH¢350 million, this year.
Reacting to concerns around new entrants, particularly from China, onto the scene, the UMB MD argued that the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) presents a market which if fully harnessed will create demand beyond the current capacity and drive innovation across the local market.
“With AfCFTA, we have a common marketplace where the processing of our cocoa does not have to go through Switzerland. We have off-takers, between Ghana and Ivory Coast. We still have a strong market since China has its own Asian market.
We as a country and continent still have a large market share… AfCFTA will therefore bring a new opportunity of increasing our capacity by looking at processing or semi-processing before we export so we can boost our foreign exchange earnings and create jobs.”
Touching on its medium-term approach, Mr. Dwemoh stated that UMB is currently collaborating with foreign buyers and asking them to insist on sustainable farming and cocoa production to bring additional value to the farmers with regards to the living income differential (LID).