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Ghana dreams of homemade chocolate

While much of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, most of it is still processed in Europe and America. But, the world's number two cocoa producer, Ghana, hopes to double the amount of beans processed locally to about 40 percent of production by next year in order to boost profitability.
/ Source: Reuters

The world's number two cocoa producer Ghana hopes to double the amount of beans processed locally to about 40 percent of production by next year in order to boost profitability, industry regulator Cocobod said.

While much of the world’s cocoa comes from West Africa, most of it is still processed in Europe and America. Only about 20 percent of Ghana’s cocoa — renowned for its high quality — is processed locally.

But the government is keen to see that rise and boost one of its biggest export earners by attracting investors wary of instability in neighboring Ivory Coast — the world’s top cocoa grower, now split in two by civil war.

Hoping for greater production
Cocobod is considering six applications from companies that want to process cocoa, deputy chief executive Tony Fofie said on Monday, naming U.S. firms Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill as potential investors.

“By next year we should be able to process 40 percent. We are looking at expansion of existing facilities. We are trying to attract investment. Some of them are looking at land in Takorade and Tema,” Fofie told Reuters.

Of Ghana’s three cocoa processors, two are already looking to increase capacity.

Swiss chocolate maker Barry Callebaut, which produces cocoa snacks and liquor in Ghana, aims to double its processing capacity to 60,000 tons from the beginning of 2006, said Managing Director Gotzon de Aguirre.

Government-owned Cocoa Processing Company (CPC) also said it wanted to more than double its processing capacity to 65,000 tons by the end of next year.

Barry Callebaut, which also has processing facilities in Ivory Coast, started processing cocoa in Ghana in 2001.

“We were highly dependent on Ivory Coast, with high capacities there, we wanted to diversify our cocoa sourcing in order to spread risk and also to buy beans with a very different taste profile,” de Aguirre told Reuters.

'Where the money is'
By contrast CPC has been processing cocoa in Ghana since 1965 and on the streets of the capital Accra, vendors sell chocolates and sweets under its Golden Tree brand.

Processing is “where the money is...We can’t forever be suppliers of raw beans or semi-finished products, which have very little margin,” said CPC’s Managing Director Richard Amarh Tetteh.

Some firms say however there are disadvantages to local processing, not least that Western-based processors have a greater choice of beans.

Poor infrastructure can also be bad for business, and in Ghana, bottlenecks at the port of Tema and unreliable power can hurt supply flows.

Cocobod acknowledges that processing as is currently seen in Ghana still has a long way to go.

“What you expect to see is value addition...that comes when you are at the tertiary stage, confectionery, and industrial chocolate...that’s where the money really is,” said the body’s chief executive, Kwame Sarpong. “We are hoping that in time that is where these companies will go,” he said.

Barry Callebaut’s de Aguirre said the company did not rule out refining its products further. “But the focus today is entirely on cocoa processing,” he said.