Artisanal cocoa processors in the country have called on the government to provide them with the necessary support to expand their businesses and enable them to fully participate and benefit from the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
The Vice President of the Cocoa Value Addition Artisans Association of Ghana (COVAAAGH), Mrs Ida Dela Kuekey Austine said this would make them expand their processing capacity, thereby creating more employment, particularly for the youth.
She made the call when she delivered a speech at a forum held last Tuesday in Accra to discuss ways artisans in the cocoa sector could leverage AfCFTA.
Speaking to a 2017 research finding by the Goodman LLC, she said that, "Although the country boasts of an installed cocoa processing capacity of 450,000 tonnes per annum, the current local processing capacity is 225,000 tonnes, representing about 34 per cent, whilst the national goal was to process over 50 per cent."
She further stated that, "Unfortunately, since independence, Ghana has failed to capitalise on processing majority of the cocoa it exports, thereby earning less from the commodity."
She said despite the huge potential of the artisanal cocoa value addition sector for the country and its readiness to expand into the African market through AfCFTA, it is facing a number of challenges.
Mrs Austine said, the Association, comprising of 40 small to medium scale cocoa addition artisans was poised to change the situation by adding more value to Ghana's cocoa with the requisite support by the government.
"COVAAAGH members will add their quota to the existing large scale processors by increasing the country's processing level to over 60 per cent. The uniqueness of COVAAAGH members is their commitment to bridge the gap between production and consumption through value addition," she said.
Among other things, she asked that the government reduces the taxes on local cocoa beans semi-processed cocoa products, and reduction of taxes on equipment for local cocoa value addition.
In addition, she called on the government to ensure that the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) speed and make up processes of procuring cocoa beans by local artisans less cumbersome.
According to her, members of the association needed to be exposed to the international market and appealed to the government to ensure that international platforms were made available to them through trade fora.
This, she said, would help them leverage external opportunities, make them penetrate into such markets, and enable them to capitalise on opportunities thereof, to expand their business operations and boost processing by local artisans.
"More importantly, COVAAAGH needs the government to create special purpose fund to provide financial support (operational and equipment) to boost local artisanal cocoa value addition," she said.
The Vice President of COVAAAGH noted that when these challenges were resolved, its members would fully benefit from the AfCFTA, while creating more employment and add to national development.
Responding to their requests, the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo said the government would soon engage the artisans to know the best ways to address their challenges and make them benefit from the opportunities presented to them through AfCFTA.