Players in the cocoa production and processing value-chain in the country have called for immediate and rigorous measures to be placed to ensure improvement of the commodity into more semi-finished and finished products.
This, they said would enable not only large scale companies but more importantly, small-scale and artisanal companies to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
Speaking at a stakeholders' forum in Accra last Tuesday, the Managing Director of the Cocoa Processing Company (CPC), Nana Agyenim Boateng I stated that, "The whole process of harvesting, drying, warehousing, quality assurance and analysis, and selling of cocoa in Ghana has been documented and admired all over the world."
However, he indicated that, to achieve this, there was the need for players to commit to addressing all bottlenecks in the cocoa value chain, especially, the processing sector.
"West Africa will have to develop its finance markets for finished products in confectionary, beverage, skin care and pharmaceutical products or find alternative markets for greater percentage per annum of these products," he said.
According to Nana Agyenim Boateng I, this could be done through exports, "To stabilise cocoa prices and control of cocoa pricing on the international market as the developed markets mature while cocoa production increases."
"Apart from strategising for enhanced direct consumption of the product we could promote the supply of couverture - industrial chocolate, with the view to encouraging small-scale and industrial and artisanal chocolate production across Africa to boost employment on the continent and create rich choco-preneurs," he emphasised.
He said that, it was important for players in the sector to be fully aware of the rules of origin of the AfCFTA, noting that the rules should be simple, transparent, business friendly, and predictable.
In addition, he said the cost of doing business in the country, and the continent on a whole should be made favourable to businesses, reduction in transportation infrastructure to allow free flow of goods and services, as well as making custom clearance procedures less cumbersome.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo equally underscored the need for a policy to ensure extensive processing and consumption of cocoa locally in Ghana and on the African continent.
To him, beyond increasing the processing of cocoa into semi-finished and finished products, there was also the need to diversify the use of the commodity, and said, "We can even explore the use of cocoa and shea for skin care products."
On the same issue of increased value addition, the President of the Cocoa Value Addition Association of Ghana (COVAAG), Mrs Ida Dela Kuekey Austine, said that small-scale and artisanal companies ought to adopt creative ways in adding value to the commodity.
She pointed out that, currently, less was earned on the commodity due to lack of processing of cocoa in the country, and called on the government to support small-scale and artisanal companies to overcome the myriad challenges they were confronted with.