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07.10.2005 Business & Finance

VEEP speaks against unfair global market for cocoa

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Accra, Oct. 7, GNA - Vice President Alhaji Aliu Mahama on Friday called on cocoa producing countries to maintain their focus in providing adequate resources towards public education on the unfair global market and how to increase their income.

"Even as we engage our populations as alternate markets, we must continue to fight unfair global trade policies within the contest of World Trade Organisation (WTO)," he said.

Vice President Mahama made the call when he addressed the 68th General Assembly of the Council of Ministers of the Cocoa Processors' Alliance (COPAL) in Accra.

"I am informed that sugar producers of the developing world made progress against subsidies and other unfair practices in last year's trade negotiations.

"Let us prepare well, unite behind common positions and project our concerns from a position of strength," he said. The Assembly of the 10-member organisation preceded the maiden launch of COPAL Cocoa Week in Accra, Ghana, last Saturday. COPAL is an intergovernmental organisation created in 1962 with its headquarters in Nigeria and comprises representatives of the governments of Brazil; Cote d'Ivoire; the Dominican Republic; Gabon; Malaysia; Sao Tome and Principe; Togo and the host country. The organisation accounts for approximately 75 per cent of the total world cocoa production.

Vice President Mahama said COPAL could enhance its bargaining capacity by positioning itself in the potentially vast Eastern European and East Asian emergent economies through product innovation and high profile marketing. He said Ghana had se t up a National Committee for the promotion of consumption of cocoa.

Vice President Mahama said the Government had approved plans of the Committee while Ghana Cocoa Board has made financial provision for implementation in line with the decisions COPAL committed itself to in Sao Tome and Principe last year.

He noted that the form in which cocoa was packaged and marketed in developed countries might not necessarily appeal to indigenous tastes and dietary practices.

The Vice President said COPAL could learn from Malaysia where diligent research and investment in packaging had turned the oil palm tree into an all-embracing product.

"Virtually nothing of the tree is wasted. Its is not too late to turn cocoa into the product of choice for foods, beverages, drugs, soap, fertilisers and other sundry products," he said.

He stressed: "The remarkable health benefits of the natural food of the gods could be exploited as much as a better antidote to the stress of modern life than the synthetic substitutes in production in the developed world.

" After all, if the original is available at a reasonable price, why settle for a more expensive synthetic version?" he asked. Mr Kwadwo Baah-Wiredu, Ghana's Finance and Economic Planning Minister, who is the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of COPAL, called on the delegates to promote sustainable cocoa economy through economic and social development and environmental conservation in cocoa growing communities.

He said Ghana was taking measures to check the use of child labour, on cocoa plantations through legislation and collaboration with all stakeholders to give the industry a clean and responsible image. Dr Stephen Weise, Regional Coordinator of the Sustainable Tree Crops Programme, (STCP) expressed the need to replace ageing cocoa farmers, plantation and farming techniques and to rejuvenate depleted soils among other measures to sustain the industry.

STCP, which is a private and public partnership initiative being funded by the United States Agency for International Development, has introduced regional approach to cocoa production, marketing and research.

Mr Joseph Henry Mensah, Senior Minster, who chaired the function, said there was the need to draw a line between children who were being exploited commercially on cocoa plantations and those who accompany their parents to the farms as part of their domestic responsibilities. 07 Oct. 05

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