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20.11.2002 General News

Ghana to Host Cocoa Conference

By Accra Mail
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Ghana's atmosphere of peace and stability continues to pay dividends. Next year she would host the 14th International Cocoa Research Programme.

The Chief Executive of the COCOBOD, Mr. Kwame Sarpong disclosed this yesterday in Accra at a four-day workshop on "Sustainable Tree Crop Programme (STCP)". Though Ghana has lost her pre-eminence as the world's leading producer of cocoa, the country's premium quality beans remain a world favourite. Ghanaian cocoa has over the years been smuggled to neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire, a country that is currently in the grips of civil unrest. Not even this unrest has diminished the smuggling.

Mr. Sarpong said besides smuggling, the issue of sustainable production levels and favourable market prices are the two main challenges bedeviling the cocoa industry in the country.

He said the success of the STCP "would ensure that our numerous cocoa farmers achieve and maintain a sustainable livelihood".

Mr. Sarpong said the political unrest in Cote d'Ivoire, the leading cocoa producing country in the world has crippled the market in terms of production. He said, "without stability in Cote d'Ivoire it is difficult for the rest of cocoa producing countries to devise strategies and run activities".

The STCP workshop initially was scheduled to take place in Cote d'Ivoire but due to the political instability in that country it is was shifted to Ghana. It is being organised by the US Government, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ghana Government and the International Cocoa Industry.

It is aimed at developing a holistic approach to sustainable cocoa systems that are socially, economically and environmentally sound. The participants include producers, NGOs, governments and policy makers.

A lecturer at the University of Purdue, Diakalia Sanogo said creating and sustaining farmers' organisations, finance and inadequate farming inputs are some of the major constraints facing the cocoa industry.

He called for the development of strong producer organisations to train farmers about management and also to provide financial services to farmers through credit schemes as well to solve the challenges facing them.

The workshop would also discuss the touchy issue of unacceptable labour practices, especially child labour on cocoa plantations. This issue in recent times has hit the headlines, especially in the chocolate consuming nations of Europe and America. The decades old practice of allowing children to "help" on the farm has been questioned and categorised as another form of child exploitation.

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