The Alliance of Cocoa Producing Countries (COPAL) is in the process of developing a certification standard for its member countries by harmonizing existing certification schemes, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning has said.
In a speech read on behalf of the Minister at the three-day National Cocoa Stakeholders’ Conference, he said the COPAL scheme would also take into consideration the different national and international standards on cocoa trade and food safety as well as other market fundamentals.
Dr Duffuor said the slow pace of growth in the volume of certified cocoa beans produced in the country showed that there were practical challenges with the processes to securing the license as a certified cocoa grower.
Besides, the absence of clearly defined stakeholders’ responsibilities for certified cocoa in the supply chain in relation to the rules of the Federation of Cocoa Commerce further added to the problem, he said.
Dr Duffuor said: “The flood of certification schemes confuses farmers and masks the understanding of how certification works exactly. Low literacy levels among cocoa growers impede capacity building programmes and adoption of new technologies”.
He called for well-defined stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities to fit into the FCC rules to encourage collective acceptance, the etsbalishment of legal and regulatory framework and operational guidelines necessary to facilitate smooth implementation of certification standards along the whole value chain.
Dr Duffuor said there was also the need to step up training programmes and institute monitoring and evaluation of certification programmes.
He said it was important to deal with the issues as there was increasing consumer preference for certified cocoa beans, which offered producing countries the opportunity to expand the scope of certification to cover more growers and increase production in consonance with the current and future demand.
Mr Cyril Ugwu, Regional Cocoa Programme Manager, West Africa Fair Fruit, said aside, quality consumers were now demanding cocoa that had been produced under production systems that avoid the use of unapproved chemicals, adhere to labour conditions, acknowledges occupational health and safety and protection of the natural environment.
He said “Stakeholders of the cocoa supply chain now seek to develop an integrated approach to improve and protect the economic, social and environmental conditions at the beginning of the supply chain,” and added that Ghana needed to strategise to compete with the fast growing 50 producing countries, that now advertised their produce on traceability portals of standard systems for easy sourcing by processors.
The conference organised by West Africa Fair Fruit on the theme: “Partnership for Cocoa Sustainability,” will discuss issues in the cocoa sector and sustainability tools, which had made farmers in other countries to get higher yield and income.
It will also deal with an understanding of current international trends, challenges and opportunities and how cocoa certification serves as a tool for cocoa sustainability.
Cocoa buyers and consumers of chocolate around the world are increasingly demanding traceable cocoa and a lot of cocoa producing countries are grabbing the opportunities therein.
Cocoa certification demands that a farmer’s social, environmental and economic activities fall in line with best labour practices; in exchange for premium price on produce.