Cocoa as a cash crop has served the Ghanaian economy very well, from long before independence. Apart from earning precious foreign exchange, the crop provided livelihoods to farmers, with many using proceeds from the tree to educate their children to become useful citizens.
Over the years, cocoa farmers have laboured behind the scenes without gaining the much-needed recognition they deserve for their efforts in making the country one of the largest producers of the cash crop in the world.
Despite being the second-biggest exporter of cocoa, Ghana’s role in the multibillion-dollar chocolate industry has remained overshadowed by countries that use her raw materials to produce the finest cocoa-based products.
For cocoa farmers to take their rightful place in the national economy, and the country its deserved place in the global chocolate industry, a change of approach is needed.
The National Chocolate Day was launched 16 years ago with the goal of boosting domestic consumption of chocolate as well as other cocoa-based products. It also presented an opportunity for Ghanaians to savour the hard work of these farmers.
It is a known secret that some of the best confectionery makers in the world place a premium on Ghana’s cocoa. That notwithstanding, Ghana-made chocolate barely makes it to the shelves of supermarkets outside of the country.
It appears that Ghana’s focus has largely remained on exporting the raw unprocessed beans, with little attention given to domestic consumption. Perhaps if attention was given to domestic consumption, more locally-made products would find their way into local supermarkets.
Indeed, the benefits of domestic consumption are enormous – ranging from extending the value chain, which provides more jobs, to giving the country extra foreign exchange through the export of cocoa products.
Before the National Chocolate Day was launched 16 years ago, there was no strategic approach to driving the consumption of chocolate or any other cocoa-based products. Through the ingenuity of people like the late Jake Obetsebi Lamptey, the National Chocolate Day has become one of the days to look forward to.
It must be said that the decision to choose February 14, St. Valentine’s Day, as the National Chocolate Day was indeed a masterstroke. Given cocoa’s natural properties, which are known to enhance cardiovascular health, there could never have been a better symbol of love than chocolate, as has been widely marketed for the past 16 years.
Despite its relative success, there is clearly more work to be done to ensure domestic consumption of cocoa increases. According to the COCOBOD CEO, Joseph Boahene Aidoo, the country’s per capita consumption is 0.53 kilograms, which is far below the consumption rate in Europe and the Americas of around 6.6 kilograms per capita.
Speaking at the launch of this year’s National Chocolate Week, he argued that the nation needs to step up its per capita consumption of chocolate and other cocoa products to boost the national economy and reduce the export of raw cocoa beans for processing.
Ghana currently processes about 40 percent of its raw cocoa beans locally, with Cocobod setting a target to process at least 50 percent locally. In recent years, Cocobod in collaboration with the Ghana Tourism Authority has expanded the celebration of National Chocolate Week, which should provide even more opportunity to encourage domestic consumption of cocoa-based products.
One lesson the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted is the need for economies to be self-sustaining. And any plan to drive domestic consumption deserves all the support that one can garner. Apart from the soothing taste of cocoa, its health benefits are enormous and also very useful in the times that we live in.
Cocoa’s antioxidant properties work well to boost one’s immune system – which is very key in mitigating the harm caused to the body by the novel coronavirus.
As we mark the National Chocolate Week, remember: for every bite of chocolate or every sip of cocoa beverage, not only are you protecting the jobs of farmers but you are actually giving your immune system a boost to withstand the ills of this deadly virus.
Do have a good chocolatey day!