Customs officials from Ave-Havi Station of the Aflao Command of Customs Division of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) have intercepted 53 rice bags of raw cocoa beans being smuggled from Ghana to Togo.
The cocoa beans were packaged in 16 bags (65kg) and 37 bags (30kg) with total weight of 2,018kg, in a Ford Transit Van with registration number VR 407-17 heading towards the republic of Togo.
The officials intercepted the 'goods' at Ave-Fiave and escorted the vehicle to the Aflao office and later handed them over to officials of the Ghana Cocoa Board.
Mr Franklin Quist, officer in charge, Ave-Havi Customs Station in an interview with the Ghana News Agency said, they had information in the morning of Saturday, February 15, 2020 that a vehicle containing smuggled goods was attempting to enter Togo through unapproved route, thus, a patrol team moved in to mount a search.
He said later around 1540 hours same day, driver of the arrested vehicle who claimed he was transporting rice to Aflao, got off the vehicle when stopped and dashed into a nearby bush leaving the vehicle behind.
Mr Quist said the locals massed up in an attempt to free the vehicle, but the officers tactfully handled the situation and escorted the vehicle with the goods to the Ave-Havi Station for examination before sending it to the Aflao Office the next day.
Mr Wisdom Delali Amexame, Volta/Oti Regional Head of COCOBOD said cases of people attempting to smuggle cocoa beans out of the country to neighbouring Togo were becoming a too many describing it as unpatriotic.
He said government made huge investments in the cocoa sector in areas including; mass spraying, cocoa pollination, mass pruning and subsidised fertilisers aimed at improving yields of farmers.
The Regional Head of COCOBOD urged farmers to send their produce to COCOBOD, the state institution responsible for buying their beans and not smuggle them out to deny government of recouping part of its investment and the needed revenue.
Mr Amexame said his outfit was collaborating with the various security agencies to step up anti-smuggling operations and warned that offenders would be dealt with.
"These days, smugglers don't carry sacks of cocoa on their heads. In Oti areas, the farmers now convey the cocoa beans in 'gallons' (yellow jerry cans) under the guise of going to carry palm wine, or to fetch water. Down south here in the Volta Region, this is what is happening, the cocoa beans are packaged as rice," he observed.
Mr Charles Amenyaglo, Director, Special Services, COCOBOD urged citizens to report activities of smugglers to authorities for punishment, adding, such illegal activities could have negative implications including; reducing government's interventions in the sector.