President John Agyekum Kufuor has asked African scientists and researchers to help improve the quality of cocoa beans and products in order to increase its consumption.
He said it was through research that medicinal and nutritional benefits of cocoa could be realised to increase the consumption of cocoa products globally.
President Kufuor made the appeal in an address read for him by Mr Kwadwo Mpiani, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff, at the opening of an international symposium on cocoa in Kumasi on Tuesday.
The three-day symposium, which was under theme “Theobroma cocoa - the tree of change, building a consensus on the future of cocoa sustainability in West Africa”, was being attended by cocoa researchers, public sector managers and cocoa growers among others from West African and Central African cocoa growing countries.
It aims at determining the status, trends and future scenarios of cocoa production in Western and Central African countries, which accounts for 70 per cent of global cocoa production.
The event would offer a platform to showcase and share advances in cocoa science, identify the critical uncertainties and knowledge needs for more deliberate cocoa development, create awareness for effective technology transfer and funding and distribution of inputs.
President Kufuor said in spite of the progress and achievements made in the cocoa sector, there were still challenges confronting the cocoa industry.
He urged participants to find solutions to problems regarding pesticides, polycyclic aromatic hydro carbons (PAHS), contained in cocoa beans which were harmful to human health and ochratoxin “A” in cocoa beans with its potential carcinogenic effects.
President Kufuor urged the participants to take a look at these challenges and find solutions to them.
He said the government was committed to supporting research and improvement of the cocoa industry and agriculture generally in Ghana, adding that, in this period of global economic uncertainty, the need to transform and modernize agricultural practices had never been greater.
President Kufuor said government was looking forward to lead the effort towards establishing the cocoa consensus plan which would help farmers not only to survive but flourish under the challenging economic situation currently facing the world.
He commended MARS Incorporated, sponsors of the symposium and the Cocoa Producers Alliance for their continued support for the cocoa industry in the areas of research.
President Kufuor called on MARS to explore the many investment opportunities in the cocoa industry in Ghana and establish cocoa processing industry in the country.
Professor George Gyan-Baffour, Deputy Minister for Finance and Economic Planning, said government had initiated a number of measures to increase cocoa production in the country over the last seven years.
He mentioned the introduction of high-tech seedlings, mass spraying, increase in the producer prices of cocoa as well as payment of bonuses and construction of roads in cocoa growing areas, as some of the initiatives that had helped increased cocoa production.
Professor Gyan-Baffuor, however, said there were still challenges in the industry and appealed to the scientists and researchers to help find solutions to them.
Mr Sona Ebai, Executive Director of Cocoa Producers Alliance, said industries in cocoa consuming countries had come out with innovative technologies to improve production and profit margins in the cocoa industry.
He said the issue of sustainability of the industry, remained unresolved and called for concerted approaches to improve and sustain cocoa production in the growing countries.
Dr Howard-Yana Shapiro, Chief Executive of MARS Incorporated, stressed the need for coordinated and sustainable partnership for the improvement of cocoa production.
Mr Emmanuel Asamoah Owusu-Ansah, Ashanti Regional Minister, said there was the need for value to be added to cocoa products to increase its benefits to producing countries.
Daasebre Osei Bonsu, Omanhene of the Asante Mampong Traditional Area, called for the establishment of cocoa bank to help provide credit facilities to cocoa farmers to enable them to expand their farms and improve their living standards.