20.06.2006 Business & Finance

Iran to buy Ghana cocoa direct

By (Reuters)
Iran to buy Ghana cocoa directCOCOA
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China, India and Iran have approached the Ghanaian government to buy cocoa directly from the world's second-biggest producer, Ghana's finance minister said on Sunday during a visit by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

"China wants to buy cocoa directly from us --- both raw beans and semi-processed. Iran and India also want to do the same. They've all spoken to us about it, but we have to consider our international cocoa agreements and commitments," Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu told reporters.

"We have to consider that's in our national interest," Baah-Wiredu said.

He was answering questions from journalists at the Osu Castle, the West African country's seat of government, after Wen met Ghanaian President John Kufuor and signed loan deals including an overhaul of Ghana's unreliable phone networks.

"Anything we agree to must be for the long term, say 20 years. But we're very interested in processing. We want to process more cocoa here," Baah-Wiredu said.

Ghana has a semi-liberalized cocoa marketing system in which private companies are involved in buying cocoa from farmers, but exports are centralized by the state-controlled COCOBOD cocoa regulator.

Wen arrived in the Ghanaian capital on Sunday for an overnight stop on a tour of seven nations in Africa, which China's government has prioritized as a source of oil, minerals and other resources to fuel its rapid economic expansion.

During an earlier visit in Egypt, Wen said China's wooing of African and Latin American countries to expand trade and energy cooperation posed no threat to U.S. interests, and reiterated China would not interfere in countries' internal affairs such as human rights.

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