The Second African Cocoa Summit involving cocoa producers on the continent on Wednesday September 5th began a two-day meeting in Accra aimed at defining a policy roadmap towards a sustainable Africa cocoa economy.
Africa, which produced approximately 76 percent of the total world output in 2005/2006, processed only 14 percent of the output and accounted for barely three percent of the annual consumption.
Paradoxically, Europe, a non-cocoa producing continent, processed 42 percent of the world’s total production.
In an opening address, Ghana’s President John Agyekum Kufuor urged cocoa producing countries in Africa to implement policies that promoted value addition and domestic consumption to maximise returns.
He said, given the importance of the crop to their economies, they must adopt and implement the policy of value addition to boost returns and also promote consumption on the continent to help influence the pricing.
The Summit is being attended by delegations from Ghana, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Equatorial Guinea, DR Congo and Guinea-Conakry.
Cocoa has been critical to the economies of West and Central African countries, providing employment for more than 50 percent of the work force, and remains a major source of revenue for some of the countries.
Productivity levels in many of the African countries are, however, lower than the rest of the world. While countries in Asia and America have yields above 800 kilograms per hectare, those in Africa register less than 500 kilograms per hectare.
Furthermore, Africa loses about 50,000 tonnes of the crop annually to pests and diseases.
Given the very well researched health and nutritional benefits of the crop, Kufuor said stakeholders in the industry should develop new recipes and menus to promote cocoa dishes.
He criticised the reported prevalence of child labour in the industry and asked countries involved to take all measures to prevent the unacceptable practice.
He said informed participants that the Ghana Government had since taken legislative measures to ensure that such practices were eliminated.
“We must remain alert so that there is no negative perception that might affect international demand for our cocoa.”
In a message to the summit, Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Dua called for the rational use of pesticides to reduce risks to human health and the environment.
He said Africa should also work together and articulate strategies to sustain cocoa production and maintain the quality of the beans.
Ghana’s Finance Minister, Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu said a ministerial meeting that preceded the summit had recommended among other things, the need to make cocoa farming more attractive to the youth.
They agreed to work together for the harmonisation of international quality standards, promotion of domestic consumption and a commissioning of inventory of cocoa resources to enhance policy formulation.