Ghana's president pledges to process 50 pct of cocoa by domestic companies

Ghanaian President John Dramani Mahama pledged here on Friday the government was determined to ensure that at least 50 percent of the country's annual cocoa yield was processed by domestic companies.

This, he said, would ensure that the country derived higher benefits from the production of cocoa and create more wealth for farmers.

Mahama stated this when he commissioned the Cocoa Touton Processing Company (CTPC), a multi-million dollar investment by the Touton Group of Bordeaux, in France.

Touton acquired 100 percent stakes in Commodities Processing Industries Ltd (CPIL) which started operations in 2007 and quickly became one of the largest manufacturers of cocoa-derived foods, with a capacity of processing 25,000 metric tons of cocoa per annum.

In 2014, Ghana produced nearly 900,000 metric tons of the chocolate beans and 30 percent of this, according to the president, was processed internally while 70 percent was exported as raw beans.

"Touton's investment in the processing sector is in line with the agenda to increase the volume of cocoa we process locally," Mahama stated.

He said the business climate which was supported by political stability and a peaceful atmosphere were some of the factors that made Ghana the preferred destination for Touton to locate its first cocoa processing plant in the whole world.

The president pledged the government's resolve not to compromise on the premium quality of its cocoa in the quest to maximize yield.

According to him, the government, working through the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), would do everything possible to ensure that the quality of the country's cocoa, which was the envy of the industry, was sustained while efforts were also made to increase the yield.

"Cocoa plays a crucial role in the Ghanaian economy and remains one of the strong pillars of the country and a major source of foreign exchange," the president pointed out.

For this reason, he said government would continue to support the efforts by the COCOBOD to ensure that farmers were happy in what they did and thereby producing more for the country.

The COCOBOD will this year distribute 50 million free seedlings to farmers in addition to the free fertilizers and free mass spraying of farms against diseases that threaten the life of cocoa trees.

Frederic Clavier, French Ambassador to Ghana, reiterated the confidence of France in the future prospects of Ghana which is signified by the number of French businesses that are investing there.

He said Ghana remained a "safe harbor for investment" and the acquisition by Touton was a great example of that confidence in the economy.

"Cocoa is strategic for Ghana, and it is the country's second largest export product so we welcome all the effort COCOBOD and government are making to improve the sector," the envoy stated.

The Chief Executive Officer of Ghana COCOBOD, Steve Opuni, urged investors to venture into producing finished products from the cocoa beans at the tertiary level which would be traded in the West African market.

"The West African market has some 400 million people and finished cocoa products can be consumed in this market alone," Opuni stated.