Plans to add value to the country’s raw cocoa beans before export has received a shot in the arm following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) and the Genertec International Corporation of China to construct a cocoa processing plant at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western Region.
The project, which is estimated to cost US$100 million, is expected to commence in 2020 after a feasibility study by the Genertec International Corporation of China.
This was disclosed by the Chief Executive Officer of COCOBOD, Mr Joseph Boahen Aidoo, at the signing of the MoU on September 18.
The factory, when completed, is expected to process 50,000 metric tonnes of cocoa beans every year. It has the potential to raise production to 90,000 metric tonnes to enable export, mainly to the Chinese market.
This is expected to boost the local processing of cocoa beans in the country.
Currently, the country exports about 80 per cent of its cocoa beans in the raw state despite calls for value addition in order for the country to earn more revenue from the commodity.
For instance, out of about 900,000 metric tonnes(mt) of cocoa which was produced in the 2017/18 season, only about 190,000 metric tonnes was processed locally.
The government announced an ambitious plan to increase cocoa production to one million metric tonnes as it improves the local processing of the beans to 50 per cent.
The country already has seven major cocoa processing firms and with an estimated processing capacity of about 500,000 mt. The new factory, when completed, would increase this capacity to about 550,000 which puts them in a position to meet the government’s 50 per cent processing target.
Speaking at the signing ceremony, Mr Boahen Aidoo said it was the policy of the government to increase the production of cocoa beans by adding value to the product to be competitive in the emerging world market.
He said the building of the factory would contribute immensely to the country’s economy.
“The factory is important for a number of reasons. One being that, it is the first time a cocoa processing factory is coming closer to the people who produce cocoa in the country,” he stated.
He said this would open up the rural economy of Sefwi Wiawso and strengthen the cocoa supply chain.
Expand cocoa production
The CEO also pointed out that the country was hoping to expand its production from 850,000 metric tons to 1.5 million in the long-term.
He said Ghana was the second largest producer of cocoa beans in the world and the number one producer of premium cocoa globally, and called on all to support the project to ensure its success.
He said discussions on the project started about two-and-half years ago and was excited to witness the signing ceremony as a way of exploring business opportunities for the two countries.
Long lasting relations
The Vice-President of the China Development Fund, Mr Zhou Qingyu, who was also present at the signing ceremony, welcomed the collaboration and said both countries had enjoyed long-lasting relations, hoping to continue with the friendship for the benefit of all, especially cocoa farmers.
He pledged the company’s unflinching support to work with the government to ensure that the necessary documentation started as early as possible for the project to begin as expected.
For his part, the Vice-President of the Genertec International Corporation, Mr Zhou Mingchun, said Ghana was regarded as the regional hub in trade facilitation, hence the need for China to set up businesses in the country.
He was optimistic the project would be successful and sustainable to revitalise the cocoa industry.