ACCRA, Technical teams from Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana, respectively the biggest and second biggest cocoa producing countries, are holding a joint co-operation meeting on cocoa here to discuss how to enhance farm-level productivity, marketing and international issues of interest.

The meeting on Thursday and Friday is taking place against a backdrop of low cocoa prices on the international market and is expected to devise strategies for mitigating the harsh effects of declining prices on cocoa farmers. It will also explore ways to build resilient and robust cocoa sectors capable or rendering appreciable and sustainable benefits to farmers and the economies of the two countries.

Addressing the opening session here Thursday, Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Minister, Dr Owusu Afriyie Akoto, said the absence of any appreciable rise in demand to boost prices was threatening the sustainability of cocoa production and he called for urgent, effective and sustainable measures to protect the farmers and the economies from the harsh effects of the price falls and to chart a future path of greater self-reliance.

The solutions to this and other challenges of the cocoa sector require co-operative efforts among producers, especially the two largest, he added.

Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire together produce about 2.35 million tonnes of cocoa, or about 60 per cent of total world production.

Dr Akoto said the co-operation between the two countries presented an opportunity to harness resources, synergise strategies and march forward with the common objective of improving the welfare of cocoa farmers and the economies at large.

He said the enhancement of the welfare of cocoa farmers required improvements in farm productivity, sustainable domestic and international prices and a stronger producer organization to ensure that the interests of farmers and producer countries were catered for while fostering a competitive domestic downstream sector.

Expanding the downstream sector and increasing consumption of cocoa domestically were among the urgent steps to ensure the market equilibrium required to achieve remunerative producer prices, he said, adding that higher domestic consumption would spur increased cocoa processing locally and provide the opportunity to industrialise and diversify the economies, create jobs and generate revenues for social and economic development.

Our aim should be to gradually move to the end of the value chain, such as the production of confectionery, in order to realise the maximum gains and other related benefits that this process will catalyse, he said.