Asamankese(E/R), 28, GNA - Cocoa farmers have been called upon to maintain Ghana's reputation as the producer of the best quality cocoa in the world.
The increase in the production that has placed Ghana as the second highest producer of cocoa should, not be at the expense of quality. Mr Daniel Essien, Eastern Regional Manager of the Quality Control Division of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), who made the call at a farmers' forum at Asamankese on Friday, said Ghana was the leading cocoa producer until production declined drastically.
The Regional Quality Control Division organised the forum with Local Buying Companies (LBCs) including the Federated Commodities Limited, Transroyal Limited and Cocoa Merchants Limited.
Mr Essien expressed concern about a new phenomenon known as the, "purple bean", nicknamed locally as "cocoa cola", which he said was as threatening the cocoa industry.
He noted that improper fermentation and drying of cocoa resulted in the purple bean and advised farmers to maintain the age-old tradition of harvesting, fermenting and drying to ensure that only the best beans were produced.
The Regional Manager advised farmers to ensure that they harvested only ripened cocoa beans fortnightly, which should be fermented for six days before drying them for about a week.
Mr Essien refuted allegations that the use of fertilizer and the mass cocoa spraying had resulted in the purple bean, but attributed it to lack of proper methods of handling the beans.
He also cautioned them against harvesting a farm at a go and said if farmers picked only the ripe pods once in two weeks, ferment and dry the beans properly, they would have only beans, which were dark brown and not purple.
Mr Essien advised Cocoa Purchasing Clerks to buy cocoa only from farmers with passbooks to check the rampant theft of cocoa beans, which in most cases, were not properly fermented and dried.
They should also do random sampling of the beans by splitting them to ensure that the colour was not purple.
Mr Fosu Adarkwa, Managing Director of Cocoa Merchants Limited, said importers of cocoa beans were concerned about the purple beans, adding that, some had rejected some consignment.
The situation could damage the reputation of Ghana, he said and added that it was in the interest of the farmers and the nation to produce only the best cocoa beans.
Alhaji Adamu Iddrisu, Group Chairman of the three purchasing companies that sponsored the forum, said the government was doing its best to assist cocoa farmers by offering good prices for their produce as well as bonuses.
Farmers should reciprocate the gesture by producing the best quality cocoa beans for the crop to continue to be the backbone of the economy.