Towards 50% processing of our cocoa

BY: Daily Graphic
Board Chairman Hackman Owusu-Agyeman
Board Chairman Hackman Owusu-Agyeman

In spite of losing the top spot in cocoa production to our western neighbour, Cote d’Ivoire, in 1978, Ghana has maintained its enviable record of producing the world’s premium cocoa beans, for which reason produce from the main crop season attracts a higher price from buyers both in and outside the country.

This record, which has remained a mystery to counterpart cocoa growers, is traceable to the method of prioritising and insistence on good agronomic practices that enjoin farmers to plant right, harvest well and dry their beans appropriately to help maintain the premium quality, thanks to supervision by the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).

As a result, Ghana’s cocoa beans are the most sought-after by chocolate manufacturers seeking a distinctive taste and aroma for their brands.

Beyond branding the country to the international community, the local cocoa industry is a high stimulant of economic growth.

From farming to processing, the crop serves as a source of livelihood for millions of Ghanaians, contributes about 2.2 per cent to national economic output, measured by gross domestic product (GDP), and returns an average of $2 billion in export earnings every year.

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While these gains from the crop are enormous to Ghana, they are dwarfed by the value that the industry delivers to multinationals and countries in the Western world.
Sadly, Ghana is not alone.

In May 2016, the African Union (AU) bemoaned the fact that although cocoa producers in Africa accounted for 75 per cent of the world’s supply of the crop, they derived just two per cent in revenue from the $100 billion cocoa industry.

The President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr Akinwumi Adesina, put it more bluntly: “Africa is stuck at the bottom of the cocoa value chain, dominated instead of dominating – despite being the leading producer.”

Although heartbreaking, the reasons are not far-fetched: Over the years, the continent, and Ghana in particular, has failed to add value to the beans to help increase earnings.

Here in Ghana, in spite of producing an average of 850,000 tonnes of cocoa and boasting an installed cocoa processing capacity of 450,000 tonnes per annum, only 252,000 tonnes were processed every year.

Conscious of this, COCOBOD has, since 2017, set out to help reverse the trend by raising domestic processing of the beans to 50 per cent of total annual production, in line with President Akufo-Addo’s agenda.

To achieve this, the board supported the processors to increase utilisation of their existing capacities, including supplying them beans on credit, reviving hitherto collapsed companies such as the West African Cocoa Processing Company and increasing supplies to grinders.

The Daily Graphic is happy to note that these measures have since increased the amount of beans processed to 300,000 tonnes.

While we commend COCOBOD for the feat, we urge the board and its management not to relent in their efforts but let the current success inspire them to do more.

Beyond raising the value of earnings from cocoa production, increased processing opens employment avenues for a country that is battling chronic youth unemployment.

The Daily Graphic urges processors to properly utilise the opportunity provided them under this initiative to put into proper use their installed capacities.

This will not only help realise the President’s vision of processing 50 per cent of our cocoa but also rake in more revenue for national development.