By Kwasi Kpodo
ACCRA (Reuters) - Ghana is on track to exceed its revised 800,000-tonne target for cocoa production this season due to good rains this year, the chief executive of regulator Cocobod said on Friday.
Cocoa purchases in Ghana, the world's second-largest cocoa grower, totalled 691,149 tonnes as of March 23, from the start of the 2016/17 season on Oct. 1, according to Cocobod data seen by Reuters. That represented a 4 percent rise on last season.
"The rains have been good for us this year and the outlook is very good," Cocobod Chief Executive Joseph Boahen Aidoo told Reuters in an interview. "Indications are that we're likely to cross the 800,000 mark."
He said Cocobod aimed to raise a $1.3 billion syndicated loan from international banks in September for 2017/18 crop purchases. That loan was based on an expected output of 850,000 tonnes, Aidoo said.
Total purchases for the week ending March 23, week 25 of the 2016/17 season, were 10,308 tonnes, up from 9,490 tonnes a year earlier, the Cocobod data showed.
Aidoo said Ghana was reinforcing security at its borders to prevent the smuggling in of poorer-quality cocoa from Ivory Coast, where prices have fallen sharply. He feared this could hurt Ghana's premium bean quality.
The government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, inaugurated in January, has vowed to clean up the cocoa sector and raise output to 1 million tonnes by the end of its first four-year term.
Aidoo's predecessor Stephen Opuni, who was fired in January, is being investigated by the Economic and Organised Crime Office for suspected corruption but has yet to be formally charged, the government says. Opuni has not commented on the investigation.
New Cocobod Chairman Hackman Owusu-Agyemang said two weeks ago that last year's $1.8 billion syndicated loan was "all gone" and that the country would need to seek more funding to continue purchases for the rest of the season.
Aidoo said he had yet to verify Owusu-Agyemang's remarks. Two government sources contacted by Reuters dismissed them as politically motivated.
But Cocobod will review contracts totalling more than 5 billion cedis awarded by Opuni for the construction of cocoa roads in the last three years, Aidoo said, with a view to ensuring money was not wasted.
"This amount is more than double of what was budgeted and we are seeking justification for those contracts... we want to ensure that the projects are real," he added.
He said Cocobod was concerned about the impact of the current global price drop on its operations but this would not affect plans to revamp the sector by improving efficiency and farmers' welfare.
(Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; Editing by Tim Cocks and Susan Thomas)