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Africa outlines blueprint for future cocoa production

By Anthony Fletcher , 19-Jun-2006

A group of eight African nations have agreed to a plan aimed at establishing a better deal for the continent's cocoa producers.

Among the strategies to be put in place are a production management plan that covers issues such as storage and stock control, and a means of ensuring that cocoa farmers are paid competitive prices for their products.

The countries also agreed on strategies for increasing local consumption of cocoa products, and on programmes to meet international quality standards such as those of the EU.

 

During his opening address, Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo said that the summit was long overdue, considering what African cocoa producing countries have gone through in the last few decades.

 

"In order to avoid a glut in the cocoa market as a result of anticipated increased production, there is need for us as major producers to map out strategies on how to maintain the equilibrium," he said.

 

" We need to put our houses in order to ensure remunerative prices for millions of our cocoa farmers.

 

"The main objective of this Summit therefore is to discuss all these critical aspects of the cocoa economy with the ultimate goal of ensuring that African Cocoa producing countries that collectively account for about 80 per cent of global cocoa beans export have remunerative prices."

 

There was also discussion of emerging issues such as child labour in the international cocoa economy. This has become a major issue, not just for producer countries but for western food firms as well.

 

For example, food giant Cargill recently committed itself to improving cocoa growing and production practices, which included the eradication of child labour.

 

The company says that it is committed to working towards the elimination of abusive or enforced child labour in cocoa production. Since 2001, Cargill has been running seminars to train its suppliers to go back to their communities to teach their neighbours about sustainable cocoa practices. The seminars include a component on child labour.

 

The countries, which include Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Uganda, Gabon, Ghana and Nigeria, achieved the settlement during the first African international cocoa summit in Abuja, Nigeria last month.

 

World cocoa trade is worth about $30 billion annually. This has grown at a rate of about 5 per cent per year in the past few years. At present, African countries account for about 80 per cent of the world cocoa export with the Republic of Cote d'Ivoire taking the lead.

 

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