The first farmer-owned cocoa fermentation centre in Ghana under the Fine/Flavour cocoa production initiative of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) has been opened at Offinso in the Ashanti Region.
The fermentation centre was jointly funded by Tachibana & Co. Ltd., Guittard Chocolate, Transroyal Ghana Limited and COCOBOD with technical support from the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG).
Speaking at a ceremony to officially hand-over the facility to the Fine Flavour Cocoa Farmers’ Cooperative, the Executive Director of CRIG, Dr Isaac Yaw Opoku said the fermentation centre was built to ensure that the high quality of cocoa produced in the area was not compromised.
He further disclosed that the country currently produces about 30 metric tonnes of the premium variety of cocoa and projected a rise in production with the identification of more conducive areas for its production.
"Our initial soil tests showed that the soil in Offinso supports the fine flavour cocoa production. We have recently identified soils in Akim Oda and two other districts as perfect for the same exercise so that Ghana's production level scales higher in the next few years”.
Dr Opoku disclosed that Fine flavour cocoa is highly-priced on the world market, selling at around US$5000 to US$10,000 per tonne.
According to him, Ghana’s attempt to penetrate the niche cocoa market began with a pilot project in the Offinso District in 2008. He lauded the steady growth in membership of the Offinso Fine Flavour Farmers' Cooperative from 15 to 515 and expressed optimism that the numbers would go up as more farmers sign on to the project.
The Chairman of the Offinso Fine/Flavour Farmers’ Cooperative, Mr Alex Opoku Mensah said the fermentation centre had come as a great relief to farmers and will eliminate theft of cocoa and exposure of cocoa beans to bad weather conditions during the post-harvest processes.
He expressed appreciation to COCOBOD and the partner organizations for their continued support towards the production of Fine/Flavour cocoa. Mr Opoku appealed to the funding partners to support them with three tricycles to aid the carting of cocoa beans to the centre for fermentation and also appealed to Transroyal Ghana Limited to pay for cocoa purchased from farmers on time to enable them to meet their financial obligations.
Speaking on behalf of the partner organisations of the project, the Managing Director of Transroyal Ghana, Mr Adamu Mohammed pledged to provide the farmers with the tricycles requested to help them transport their cocoa beans to the fermentation centre.
The Chief of Kokote, Nana Opoku Asiedu II who represented the Chief of Offinso traditional area expressed appreciation to COCOBOD and the partner organizations for establishing the fermentation centre in Offinso. He advised the farmers to manage the centre well to encourage the establishment of similar centres at various farming communities in the area and beyond.