The Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Exports Promotion Authority (GEPA), Ms Afua Asabea Asare, has said the authority intends to increase coconut production from the current 49,000 hectares to 300,000 hectares by 2022.
She said currently the Coconut Farmers Association of Ghana (COFAG) was being supported with capacity building training to acquire Global GAP certification to produce to meet the stringent international standards.
Ms Asare said this at the opening ceremony of the First International Coconut Festival held at the Accra International Conference Centre (AICC).
She indicated that in 2017, GEPA Coconut Associations in the Western and Central regions were supported with about 100,000 disease resistant coconut seedlings, adding that the support would be extended to cover farmers in the other regions.
The GEPA CEO said the authority was proud to partner African Coconut Group organise the festival on an African soil in collaboration with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Free Zones and other partners such as the Food and Drugs Authority and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Ms Asare added that in the 2018 performance report of Ghana’s Non-Traditional Exports, the semi-processed and processed sector realised a substantial contribution of 78.53 per cent, and that coconut, a cash crop, provided limitless opportunities of derivatives in that sector due to the functional nature of the tree crop. She stated that with the festival, the narrative of coconut as a functional fruit would be told differently.
“During this festival, be on the lookout for a tall range of innovative products made from coconut in cosmetics, food and beverages, medication, grooming products and handicrafts.
We believe that the exposure of these innovative products at such high profile festivals will spark off new business ideas and create the desired launch pad for the talented and the business-minded,” she said.
The Chairman of the African Coconut Group, Mr Davies Korboe, said the goal of the event was to connect farmers, researchers, exporters and other relevant agencies along the coconut value chain to the market and to ensure that Ghana was ranked number one in coconut production in Africa and among the first four countries in the world.
Currently, Ghana is ranked 14th on the world map of coconut producing countries.
He assured the gathering that all the issues raised would be addressed at the appropriate quarters and hinted that the African Coconut Group, through GEPA, would continue to support coconut production in order to increase yield.
He also urged the youth to tap into the agro industry and identify feasible areas along the value chain and build on them.
The Managing Director of the Canada Coconut Festival, Mr Julian Baricuatro, called for a strategic alliance between Ghana and the rest of the world.
He urged the African Coconut group to partner other relevant bodies in order to increase yield to meet the increasing demand for coconut across the world.
The President of the African Coconut Heritage Initiative (Nigeria), Mr Prince Doheto, revealed that there was a huge deficit of about 600,000 tonnes of coconut in Nigeria, so it was important for Ghana to boost its yield in order to fill that deficit.
For his part, the Programme Manager of Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD), Mr Patrick Zeal, mentioned that among the many objectives of the International Coconut festival was to upscale coconut production not only at the local level but internationally in order to increase revenue and to network participants together to take advantage of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo’s Ghana Beyond Aid agenda.
The Western Regional Minister, Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko, who was the Special Guest of Honour for the three-day event, noted that in the next 18 months, his outfit planned to plant 5,000,000 coconut seedlings across the region to make it maintain its position as the leader in coconut production in the country.
He revealed that the MMDCEs in his region had symbolically planted 100 seedlings in the seat of governance at Jomoro to kick-start the campaign.
Mr Darko expressed the hope that the campaign would provide knowledge for farmers and open new markets to promote coconut consumption among Ghanaians.
He said the Western Region knew coconut oil before the advent of oil and gas.
A representative from Ghana Incentive Based Risk Sharing Agriculture Lending, Mr Takyi Sraha, highlighted the six pillars on which it operated: risk fund, bank rating, technical assistant facility, agriculture insurance, bank incentive mechanisms and digital finance schemes.
He said the organisation developed a robust risk assessment scheme and was able to provide up to 70 per cent risk cover for all levels of producers’ credit when approved.
The Deputy CEO of GEPA, Mr Samuel Dentu, who commended the organisers for the success of the festival, noted that the event was among several things that GEPA would collaborate with PERD, MoFA, African Coconut Group and the Coconut Federation in the coconut value chain.
He said the GEPA would work closely with PERD, MoFA, African Coconut Group and the Coconut Federation of Ghana to realise the recommendations in the communiqué issued at the end of the programme.
He added that the GEPA was going to support farmers across the coconut producing regions to increase production in the country.
The three-day festival saw the formation of six working groups, namely pre-production committee, production committee, processing committee, marketing and export committee, consumption committee, and auxiliary committee which were tasked to produce a report for global coconut players starting with Ghana, Nigeria, Canada, China and Philippines.
The aim is to help in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using coconut as the conduit.
The festival included exhibitions, business to business sessions, networking, young entrepreneurship platforms, seminars and conferences.
In attendance were industry players, researchers from CSIR and the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, University of Cape Coast, University of Ghana, Legon, and the Ghana Institute of Journalism. There were also politicians and traditional leaders from coconut growing areas, people from the Diaspora, metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies and regional coordinating councils.