Accra, Oct.1, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama, at the weekend launched the Cocoa Processors' Alliance (COPAL) Cocoa Day celebrations, in Accra, by joining the various speakers to enumerate the immense health and pharmaceutical benefits of cocoa products.
"Sometimes referred to as food for the gods, information on the health benefits of cocoa is not new knowledge. There is evidence to suggest that in earlier times cocoa was prescribed by physicians for the treatment of a wide variety of ailments," he said, at the forecourt of the State House.
Quoting from the Financial Times of London, he said: "Cocoa compounds known as flavanols can treat diabetes, strokes and vascular diseases".
COPAL, an intergovernmental organisation created in 1962 with its headquarters in Nigeria, will be holding its 68th General Assembly of the council of Ministers in Accra as part of the Day celebration dubbed: "Drink Cocoa Daily For A Healthy Life".
It comprise representatives of the governments of Ghana, Brazil, Cote d'Ivoire, the Dominican Republic, Gabon, Malaysia, Sao Tome and Principe, Togo and Nigeria.
COPAL, accounts for approximately 75 per cent of the total world cocoa production.
Alhaji Mahama tasked cocoa producers to make the product central to the nation's diet stressing, "It should be an article of faith however, that we who are blessed with natural conditions for the production of cocoa should enjoy the health benefits as well." The health benefits of cocoa include its high nutritional content, the prevention and treatment of persistent coughs, drowsiness, constipation, cancer and sexual weakness.
Major Courage Quashigah (RTD), Minister of Health, said World Cocoa Production in 2002/2003 Crop Year increased above 3.1 million metric tonnes for the first time.
In the 2003/2004 Crop Year, production increases in West Africa led to global output in excess of 3.4 million metric tonnes. Major Quashigah said in Ghana, the output in 2003/2004 was over 736,000 metric tonnes, which was comparable to the 581,000 metric tonnes recorded during the 1964/1965 Crop Year.
He said some of the challenges facing the Cocoa Industry were lack of coordinated market policies, diseases and pest problems and low world market prices.
"All these have made the industry vulnerable and farmers' net income has dropped alarmingly over the last two years. This has created a crisis situation, which can undermine the sustainability of the cocoa industry," he warned.
The Health Minister expressed the need for Ghana to add value to cocoa through research and to turn every aspect of the product into something economically useful.
He said a day would be set aside for the celebration of cocoa and during which the product would be served at all official functions and to tourists.
Mr Kwame Sarpong, Chief Executive of Ghana Cocoa Board said Ghana had decided to declare October 1 to October 5 of every year as Cocoa Day.
He said cocoa was discovered some 500 years ago in South America by the Spanish and had since remained a very precious commodity worldwide. Mr Sona Ebai, Secretary General of COPAL said the organisation was exploring the possibility of getting the backing of the UN to make Cocoa Day a global phenomenon. Professor Frederick Addai, President of Ghana Science Association said cocoa had over 300 known chemicals, which were beneficial to the human body. He dismissed claims that eating of chocolate could lead to teeth decay, saying, " Rather eating of Golden Tree Chocolate protects the teeth".