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23.11.2011 Business & Finance

Swiss Supports Quality Cocoa Production

By Charles Benoni Okine & Rita Adongo - Daily Graphic
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The Swiss government is supporting the country to upscale and develop an agricultural value chain particularly in cocoa production through a special project christened ‘Fair Trade Organic Cocoa’.

The project aims to enable a significant number of farmers in Ghana to improve their livelihoods in a sustainable way by adopting organic and fair trade standards for cocoa production.

The project will benefit more than 7,000 farming households cultivating almost 17,000 hectares of cocoa plantations within an agro-forestry system, by introducing best practices in cocoa production as well as improve their livelihoods.

The Fair Trade Organic Cocoa Project was started in 2007 in the Suhum-Kraboa-Coaltar district of the Eastern Region by Yayra Glover Ltd, a Ghanaian company with partners Pakka AG and Max Felchlin AG of Switzerland. The project is now extending from the Eastern Region where most of the farms are over-aged to the Volta Region to cultivate new cocoa farms.

At the launch of the project, the Head of Economic Section and Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Switzerland Brigitte Cuendet said, the project approaches cocoa farming as an opportunity for profitable business for small scale farmers by providing training and advice to foster entrepreneurship and build family farms as small commercial enterprises.”

“Since 2010, Switzerland through its State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has been supporting the project of the named partners in order to allow a significant up-scaling of produced volumes and enlarge the operations also to the ecologically valuable Volta Region”, she said.

The Chief Executive Officer of Yayra Glover Ltd Mr. Yayrator Glover, on his part noted that “the vision is to produce not only high quality tasty cocoa, but utilize profitable cocoa production as agent of change for environmental and social benefits of cocoa small-holders”.

His investment partner, Mr. Balz Strasser, Chief Executive Officer of Pakka AG said that “Pakka’s long-term investment into the project aims at developing a model for the development of agricultural supply chains delivering to the final customer highly sustainable products”.

Mr. Felix Inderbitzin, Purchase Director of Felchlin AG said “We remain in close contact with both the cocoa farmers and our local partners, so we know their production conditions. Together we can work towards high quality cocoa beans. We reward such quality by paying premium prices”.

Organic Cocoa is cocoa produced with high consideration for safety of the consumer and the environment. This means that the cocoa is produced without chemical pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and genetically modified items.

Fair trade organic cocoa goes further by adopting fair trade standards and certification of organic cocoa production. This involves paying living wages and improving farm practices and livelihood of the cocoa farmers.

Though the global market for organic cocoa is small (under 0.5 per cent), demand is increasing as more chocolate consumers are becoming increasingly concerned about food safety and the environment.

Organic foods are foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, do not contain, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

For the vast majority of human history, agriculture can be described as organic; only during the 20th century was a large supply of new synthetic chemicals introduced to the food supply.

The organic farming movement arose in the 1940s in response to the industrialization of agriculture known as the Green Revolution.

The weight of the available scientific evidence has not shown a significant difference between organic and more conventionally grown food in terms of safety, nutritional value, or taste.

Generally, organic food production is a heavily regulated industry, distinct from private gardening. Currently, the European Union, the United States, Canada, Japan and many other countries require producers to obtain special certification in order to market food as organic within their borders.

In the context of these regulations, organic food is food made in a way that complies with organic standards set by national governments and international organizations

The project benefits from SECO’s long standing experience in supporting organic and fair trade projects as well as founding and partnering the Organic and Fair trade Competence Centre hosted by the Swiss NGO Helvetas. Switzerland is also a longstanding and active member of the International Cocoa Organisation.

The Deputy Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Mr William Mensah, in his address conceeded that the use of bio fertilizers and practices were very important because it helped protect the land, the plant and the farmer.

As a result, he said fair trade has brought about the idea of producing cocoa in a sustainable organic environment.

He, however expressed surprise at the low patronage of organic cocoa, which he said were sometimes left at the harbour for a long time because there was no ready market for it.

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