EXPERTS CALL ON GOV’T TO MAKE COCOA BEANS LOCALLY ACCESSIBLE TO ENTREPRENEURS
…pushes for lessons in cocoa processing in educational curriculum
Cocoa value chain experts have called on government to review existing cocoa policies that classify cocoa beans as an export commodity, making it difficult for locals to get access to the beans for value addition.
According to the panel of cocoa value chain experts, for the past 100 years Ghana has been producing cocoa but it has been classified and promoted as an export commodity that brings in significant foreign revenue, notwithstanding, they argue that the benefits to the state if the beans are made available for processing and value addition locally in this era of technical know-how among the youth will be greater.
Vice President, Cocoa Value Addition Artisans Association of Ghana (COVAAGH), Dela Kuekey Austine, stated that the cocoa industry is a multi-billion-dollar sector worldwide with Ghana being recognized as the second largest producer of cocoa.
“This means that we just can’t continue to export raw cocoa beans and import its finished products at a higher price while we deprive the youth opportunity to innovate and develop their own products from cocoa,” she said on the occasion of International Youth Day (IYD), commemoration event organized by Africa Business Centre for Development Education (ABCDE), under the theme: ‘Youth Innovation in Chocolate-Making’.
To buttress her point, she emphasized that the prospects associated with cocoa are numerous and does not necessarily require sophisticated technology to transform cocoa beans or powder into a delicacy or product that can sale locally and even gain international attention.
“As youth of this country, if our nation is known globally as the second largest producer of the commodity with one of the richest values, then we cannot be left out of grabbing a significant chunk of that market revenue. But the basic things such as access to the commodity and knowledge/technical know-how in processing it must be available, and these are the things we need to address now,” she said.
Furthermore, she outlined the several prospects in handcrafted cocoa and chocolate products making that the youth must explore in their entrepreneurship endeavors to create jobs and be economically empowered.
Taking her turn, Acting Director of Public Relations, Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), Ruth Maafo, indicated that the authority is committed to assisting youths who are interested in venturing into chocolate and other cocoa products making for export with the right documentations and processes.
She however notified that lack of skills and technical know how in that space is the challenge that most youth face and there must be deliberate efforts to equip youths with relevant skills to maximize their gains in the cocoa sector.
On her part, Marketing Practitioner and Board Member of ABCDE, Petra Aba Asamoah, stressed that with the nation’s position in the global space as a strong cocoa producer, lessons must be offered in that sector in public schools and TVET level attract the youth into experimenting with cocoa as an entrepreneurship venture.
The ABCDE team’s objective for this year’s IYD commemoration is to enable organisations educate the public on investments in the agribusiness sector, focusing on innovative ways to transform the food system in areas of chocolate making and to mobilize support and further resources to address educational initiatives.
In its own capacity, ABCDE is partnering Delfi Ventures, a chocolate-making factory on a two-year programme that seeks to train students on how to make artisanal chocolates.
Chairman, ABCDE, Dr. Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, bemoaned that if Ghanaians are able to imagine 100 years of producing cocoa and selling it as raw beans, juxtaposed with the knowledge acquired by those who are able to convert the beans to chocolate and other products in the Switzerland, Belgium, France, Britain, etc and imagine the jobs the nation has not created or lost as a result of that, then Ghana would not hesitate to make it compulsory for every child to get a fair knowledge about the prospects of the commodity and how to make a business out of it in our school curriculum.
“I went to school from the basic to the university level in Ghana and did not read even one sentence about cocoa processing or chocolate making, and it baffles me that as the second largest producer of this great commodity we do not pay attention to training our youth in that field,” he said.
He called on the education minister to consider including such a programme in the curriculum to provide the Ghanaian youth with basic knowledge in the sector.