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Ghana cocoa still tops: though Ghana lost its position as the world's largest cocoa producer in the 1980s, it still produces the best quality cocoa beans in the world, and this makes the country a favourite of global buyers, reports Stephen Gyasi Jnr.

Nearly 60,000 Ghanaian cocoa farmers are to benefit from a five-year programme to improve their income and livelihoods, through training in enhanced farming technologies, new business skills, and crop diversification under a $40m programme managed by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and funded by the Bill Gates Foundation and 12 chocolate manufacturing companies.

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According to Mbalo Ndiaye, director of the Cocoa Livelihoods Programme of the WCF, the $40m scheme will boost farmers' incomes in the face of declining production. "It is a unique public-private partnership with government agencies, chocolate companies, and selected NGOs with expertise in the cocoa sector to deliver more market-oriented training to farmers," says Ndiaye. The WCF activities in Ghana will focus on improving production and quality at the farm level, equipping farmers with business skills, promoting diversification of income, and enhancing access to inputs and support services, among others.

"We welcome this opportunity to improve the lives of so many cocoa farmers in Ghana and look forward to collaborating with other stakeholders to make this programme a success," an excited Anthony Fofie, the CEO of the Ghana Cocoa Board (GCB) said.

The 2008-09 cocoa production season yielded 710,600 metric tonnes as against 680,700 for the 2007-08 season, and the total, some stakeholders believe, will increase in the next season as farmers continue to receive support to enhance production.

The government says it is prepared to lend the cocoa sector the needed support to ensure that it meets the target of producing one million metric tonnes by 2012. The GCB is already taking steps to address bottlenecks in production and distribution.

For a long time, Ghana was the world's leading cocoa producer, until it was overtaken by Cote d'Ivoire in the 1980s. Poor maintenance and inimical policies caused Ghana's production to drop until it hit its lowest level of 159,000 tonnes in the 1983-84 season.

Since then, reforms have included providing a liberalised market, a focus on product quality, and increasing productive areas. Though it has lost its number one global market position, Ghana still produces the best quality cocoa beans in the world, and this makes the country a favourite of global buyers. Every chocolate maker worth its salt needs a good percentage of Ghana cocoa beans to produce the best quality chocolate.

Finance Minister Dr Kwabena Duffuor announced a new producer price on 7 January-GH[pounds sterling]2,400 per tonne, up from the GH[pounds sterling]2,208 price approved last October. Duffuor expressed the hope that the new price would motivate farmers to increase production and also stop the smuggling of cocoa to neighbouring countries.

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Title Annotation:FOCUS ON GHANA
Author:Gyasi, Stephen, Jr.
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:6GHAN
Date:Mar 1, 2010
Words:438
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