Ghana has projected to process more than 50 per cent of its cocoa to achieve value-added production by the middle of next year, President J. A. Kufuor has announced at Dunkwa-on-Offin.
This follows efforts by the government to attract investors which have resulted in the establishment of cocoa processing companies in the country.
Consistent with the government's policy to process at least 40 per cent of the country's cocoa produce, Cargill, a cocoa processing company, has established a 60,000-tonne capacity factory in Tema.
The company, which is now test-running its plant, is expected to begin full-scale operations in November this year.
Addressing this year's Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL) Day, President Kufuor said another processing factory called ADM was being established in Kumasi.
The factory, which is expected to come into operation by the middle of 2009, will increase Ghana's processing capacity to about 380,000 tonnes, more than 50 per cent of current production levels.
The theme for the celebration was, "Consume more cocoa for good health".
The COPAL, which is an inter-governmental organisation instituted in January 1963, has set aside October 1 every year to celebrate Cocoa Day to encourage the local consumption of the crop.
The 10 countries which form COPAL produce about 75 per cent of total world cocoa but their processing capacity accounts for only 28 per cent, while their local consumption amounts to a meagre five per cent of the world's output.
While encouraging local consumption of cocoa, President Kufuor asked the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) to intensify the cocoa disease and pest control programme and the application of fertiliser.
COCOBOD, he said, should also step up the supply of early bearing and high-yielding planting materials for the rehabilitation of old farms and the payment of remunerative producer prices.
President Kufuor recounted some of the efforts the government had made to revamp the cocoa industry.
The Chief Executive of COCOBOD, Mr Isaac Osei, said the shift in cocoa production levels had brought about structural changes in the cocoa industry.
The way forward for the industry, he said, must, therefore, involve the broadening of marketing strategies to increase the sale of processed products in Ghana and the West African sub-region.
Mr Osei said recent scientific discoveries indicated that there was growing evidence that the chemicals in cocoa could provide massive medicinal benefits for the human body.
He appealed to licensed buying companies to use the funds advanced to them to pay cocoa farmers promptly.
He also advised cocoa farmers not to use agro-chemicals not approved by COCOBOD on their farms, since the practice would lead to the rejection of Ghana's cocoa beans on the international market.
The National Chief Farmer, Nana Yiadom Boakye, expressed the deep appreciation of farmers to the government for all the efforts it had made to improve the cocoa industry.
The Secretary-General of COPAL, Mr Sona Ebai, said Ghana's cocoa industry was set for growth and advised the stakeholders to encourage the local consumption and processing of cocoa.
Prizes were given to deserving farmers, chiefs and other individuals who have contributed in various ways to the growth of the cocoa industry.
Story by Nehemia Owusu Achiaw.