Ghana, the world’s second largest cocoa grower, could reach its target of producing one million tonnes of the main ingredient in chocolate next season, a year ahead of schedule, a senior government official has said.

Yaw Effah-Baafi, Deputy Minister for Food and Agriculture (Crops), said the West African country expects to produce around 850,000 tonnes of cocoa this season though much of it will remain off the books due to smuggling.

Much of Ghana’s smuggled cocoa is believed to pass through Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer, where farmers have enjoyed higher farmgate prices this year but locally-grown volumes are declining.

“Next year, we should be able to hit one million tonnes. We will look at areas which caused our shortfall and address those issues. One million is achievable next year,” Effah-Baafi told Reuters on the sidelines of an Agribusiness Investment Summit.

Effah-Baafi could not give any projections for this season’s official figures published by industry regulator, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), but said some 5-10 percent of the produced volumes were likely to be lost as a result of smuggling.

Cocoa purchases declared by private buyers to COCOBOD since the start of the year-long season in October, the best reflection of output from the West African state, hit 615,880 tonnes by August 12.

Ghana previously said it would reach the 1 million tonne mark in 2012. Official volumes by the end of this season at the end of September are expected to come in below last year’s record 705,000 tonnes.

The West African state is hoping to clamp down on smuggling with tighter border surveillance and is considering measures to keep its purchase prices competitive with neighbours Ivory Coast and Togo to discourage the illicit trade.

The official said Ghana also plans to raise the amount of cocoa processed locally to 50 percent from the 35 percent which was likely to be processed in the country this season to enhance the value of exports.

Ghana is on course to become a commercial oil exporter as it starts the production of crude oil at the Jubilee oilfield this year to help boost other agricultural investment.

Effah-Baafi said the country would favour investments in maize, rice and cattle to reduce its reliance on imports.

The country is also drafting a biofuels policy to ease investor access and Effah-Baafi said it was likely that it would be passed by the end of the first half of next year.

He said only a small percentage of arable land of marginal quality would be used for biofuels production to ensure that it does not jeopardize the country’s food production.
A study by an environmental group last Tuesday showed that biofuel demand was driving a new “land grab” in Africa, with foreign firms acquiring at least five million hectares (19,300 sq miles) to grow crops in 11 countries.

Credit: Samuel Boadi
Source: Business Guide/Ghana