Senior executives from 12 of the world’s largest chocolate and cocoa companies have signed a joint agreement with the government of Ghana as part of strategy to accelerate actions to make cocoa farming in the country sustainable.

The initiative known as CocoaAction, calls for building a rejuvenated and economically viable cocoa sector through increased cooperation between industry and the Ghanaian government.

Emphasis will be placed on providing cocoa farmers with a combination of productivity enhancements and community development interventions. These efforts are expected to enable no fewer than 100,000 Ghanaian farmers to achieve 100% increase in productivity as well as improving the communities where they live by 2020. The strategy will be coordinated by the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF).

“This agreement represents one of the most significant steps the sector is taking to make cocoa sustainable,’’ says Barry Parkin, WCF’s newly-appointed chairman and chief sustainability officer at Mars Incorporated.

He added that, “the alignment of objectives, commitment of resources, and sharing of best practices is the type of transformative initiative that will really help farmers become more productive and secure for the future of cocoa. While it represents a new way for the industry to work with origin countries, it also builds on the strong existing relationships with them. We are honoured and proud to move these relationships to a significant next step.’’

CocoaAction was carefully and voluntarily developed by the companies in cooperation with the governments of Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire, the world’s top cocoa-producing countries. The two countries provide about 55 percent of the world’s current cocoa supply. CocoaAction will later be extended to other cocoa-producing countries and is already open to participation by others in the public and private sectors that support sustainability in the cocoa sector.

Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni expressed the hope that the initiative will complement the efforts of his outfit towards its productivity and livelihood enhancement programs, which will improve the well-being of cocoa farmers and secure a sustainable supply of cocoa.

Companies that have voluntarily committed CocoaAction include ADM, Armajaro, Barry Callebaut, Blommer Chocolate Company, Cargill, Ecom, Ferrero, The Hershey Company, Mars Incorporated, Mondelez International, Nestle and Olam International Limited

Meanwhile, Ghana Cocoa Board is this year providing free fertilizers to all cocoa farmers in the country. The project forms part of initiatives by the government to increase the production of the commodity and also make cocoa farming attractive to the younger generation. COCOBOD said it had identified about 3,000 young farmers within the Central Region and was currently giving them the necessary assistance to sustain their interest in the cultivation of the commodity. It will be recalled that until this announcement, cocoa farmers have been receiving fertilizers and other chemicals at a highly subsidized rate.

But debunking media reports that governments intends to scrap this provision, Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Dr. Stephen Opuni rather said some 200 million dollars has been disbursed to ensure that cocoa producers get this incentive free of charge.