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Opinions of Thursday, 3 August 2006

Columnist: Ankomah, Afua

Venezualan Connction -From Cocaine to Cocoa

Ghana’s main cash crop may be facing stiff challenges from Venezuelan cocoa beans in the next few years. Venezuelan cocoa has long been ranked highly, and sometimes almost presumptuously, as the best in the world. Ghana has however always stood her ground and competed favourably. In a world where organic food is making a comeback, however, Ghana is now faced with clear and present danger concerning the golden pod, as a new threat looms: Venezuela is growing organic cocoa.

Some chocolate manufacturers have already latched on to the Venezuelan organic alternative and are paying up to four times as much for organic cocoa. They have also managed to cut out the middlemen, selling straight to chocolate manufacturers who are willing to fork out the cash for the produce, according to Greg Morsbach’s report on BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/5235804.stm

COCOBOD seems not to see this as an imminent threat. When I contacted COCOBOD to find out from the Chief Executive what Venezuelan Organic Upshoots would mean for the nation’s Golden Tree, it turned out to be an issue that could wait for two months. Apparently, this year’s World Cocoa Day is being held on October 1st, with a ceremony in Sunyani, and by asking questions, I’ve just landed myself an invitation…and tentatively an interview.

On the 25th of July, the Chronicle reported that government had “slammed” government for not raising the producer price of cocoa over the past three years. Interestingly enough, it takes about the same amount of time for cocoa to bear first fruit.

The story bears stunning similarity to the phenomenon currently afflicting the pineapples Ghana is exporting to the European Union and North America. They just used to love our pineapples when they would settle for just any old tropical fruit. But then, Costa Rica came into the picture, commercializing the MD-2 variety that swept everybody - both producers and consumers - off their feet. Needless to say, Ghanaian pineapple producers are sluggishly picking themselves up and dusting themselves off, gradually making their way though the haze of Costa Rican dust and following the trend – very slowly, somewhat surely – cultivating MD2 pineapples with the rest of the herd. MD2 is a variety of pineapple developed by the Hawaiian Pineapple Institute, lower in total acid, with more consistently sweet fruits than our Smooth Cayenne.

Just a thought – history tends to repeat itself. Those resting on their laurels tend to get left behind, and Ghana already doesn’t have a good track record of keeping up. But please don’t take my word for it - just ask Malaysia or Korea. As they say, a word to the wise…( is in the North, as a good friend likes to say). I just hope it will be in the Brong Ahafo region on October 1st.



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