Accra, Sept. 29, GNA - Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, Deputy Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, on Wednesday pledged Government's commitment to cater for the welfare of cocoa farmers and ensure that they got good prices for their produce. He advised purchasing clerks, who cheated farmers to change their ways, as the Government would not be lenient with them when they were caught.
Mr Manu was speaking at a press briefing as a prelude to the launch of Cocoa Producers Alliance (COPAL) Cocoa Day to be preceded by the 68th General Assembly and Council of Ministers Meeting of the Alliance on October 1.
The press briefing also formed part of efforts to create awareness on the benefits and the medicinal value derived from the consumption of cocoa and to promote its consumption in Ghana with the slogan "Drink Cocoa For a Healthy Living."
COPAL is an intergovernmental organization established in January 1962 by representatives of the Governments of five cocoa producing countries to among other things exchange technical and scientific information and to ensure adequate supplies to the market at remunerative prices.
Ghana, Nigeria, Brazil, Ivory Coast and Cameroon formed the COPAL in 1962 but its membership now stands at 10 with Gabon, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo joining. Mr Manu said the Government would do all things necessary to sustain and expand the cocoa industry that had for decades been the backbone of the nation's economy.
He said some of the policy initiatives implemented by the Government included increased producer prices and payment of bonuses, disease and pest control measures, such as mass cocoa spraying and innovative methods of cocoa farming on pilot basis in selected districts in all cocoa growing regions.
The Deputy Minister said this had resulted in the tremendous output of 736,000 tonnes in 2003/04, which was only comparable to an output of 581,000 tonnes in 1964/65-crop season.
He called on Ghanaians to drink cocoa for a healthy living saying: "Cocoa is a very important asset and its benefits and medicinal value cannot be over-emphasized."
Mr Kwame Sarpong, Chairman of COPAL, said the countries that formed the Association accounted for approximately 75 per cent of the total world cocoa production.
Mr Sarpong said during the last General Assembly Meeting in Sao Tome and Principe in 2004, member countries of COPAL decided to designate October 1 each year as COPAL Cocoa Day to promote the consumption of the product in the producing countries. He said the 10 Regional Ministers would launch the first COPAL Cocoa Day simultaneously in all the regional capital.