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Govt, Niche plan cocoa meals for 1.8m children

BY: Maxwell Akalaare Adombila
Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum (middle), Education Minister, with Edmund Poku (right), MD, Niche Cocoa Industry Limited, and Divine Ayizoe, acting Chief Director of the ministry after the signing of the memorandum of understanding in Accra
Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum (middle), Education Minister, with Edmund Poku (right), MD, Niche Cocoa Industry Limited, and Divine Ayizoe, acting Chief Director of the ministry after the signing of the memorandum of understanding in Accra

The Ministry of Education has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with indigenous cocoa processor, Niche Confectionery Ghana Limited, to supply ready-to-drink cocoa beverages to basic school children across the country.

The Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, signed the pact on behalf of the ministry while the Chief Executive Officer of Niche Cocoa Industry Limited, the parent company of Niche confectionery, Edmund Poku, initialed for the confectionery maker.

The agreement was signed last Friday in Accra and allows Niche Confectionery, which is wholly-owned by Niche Cocoa, to supply the cocoa beverage to 1.8 million primary school children in the six cocoa-growing regions.

The agreement allows the company to extend the supplies to 5.6 million children nationwide.

Per the undertaking, Niche Confectionery is to provide the primary school children with at least one ready-to-drink cocoa beverage as part of efforts by the government to increase cocoa consumption.

The country consumes about 0.5 kilograms (kg) of cocoa although it is the second-largest producer of the crop in the world.

Nutritional impact

Dr Adutwum said after the signing ceremony that the nutrition of every child in school remained one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education.

“This is why I am happy to sign an MoU between Niche Confectionery Ghana Limited and the Ministry of Education. The MoU will allow Niche Confectionery Ghana Limited to distribute chocolate beverages to primary school children in selected public schools across the country, with preference given to cocoa-growing communities,” the Education Minister said.

“This partnership will help make President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo's vision of ensuring that every child has access to a cocoa beverage a reality,” he added.

Aligned vision

The MD of Niche Confectionery, Gladys Amoah, said in an interview that the company’s business plan aligned well with the President and the government’s vision of giving Ghanaian children access to cocoa.

Ms Amoah said Niche Confectionery’s parent company had a vision of improving the consumption of cocoa by adding value to the bean and translating that into consumer-ready products.

Product range

Ms Amoah noted that the company aimed to achieve this while having a positive impact on the economy as well as key communities where cocoa was sourced.

That, she said, led to the establishment of Niche Confectionery with the sole aim of producing consumer-ready products that would be consumed both at home and abroad.

Cocoa nutrients

Ms Amoah said it was also concerned about using its operations to impact cocoa farmers positively, and was, therefore excited that the initiative would start within the cocoa-growing regions.

She described cocoa as a very nutritious crop, high in fibre, iron and antioxidant,, among other essential nutrients and expressed the hope that the operationalisation of the agrement would help to address the nutritional gaps faing Ghanaian children.

Citing data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), she said Ghana had a health and nutrition challenge, with one in 10 children under five showing stunted growth.

She said almost one in 10 children also lacked appropriate nutrients while only 50 per cent of the population were having access to Vitamin A supplementation.