My Cocoa Lamentations

On cocoa, we may never know the actual difference between how much we produce and how much and Côte d’Ivoire produces. This is because of the rampant unchecked (or uncheckable) borderless smuggling that takes place between us. Anas showed it to us. It’s arbitrage: whichever country pays more to farmers, wins the day.

But there is something else that should make us sad. Between us and CDI, we produce and export 75% of the world’s raw cocoa. Yet I read that the entire African continent accounts for just 3% of the world’s much more lucrative chocolate market. Countries with no cocoa trees, like Switzerland, (Nestle), UK (Cadbury), US (Hersheys) and even Austria make all the real money, while we sit here and console ourselves that that rock-hard culinary monstrosity called Golden Tree is the best chocolate ever made. That’s what I call “sitting at the beach and rubbing your belly-button.”

It’s the Uber economy. You don’t need to own taxis to make money from the taxi business. While the private sector elsewhere forges ahead with the speed of Usain Bolt (apologies to Kwesi Pratt), our Minister for Private Sector Development recommends, with all the seriousness he could muster, a new business paradigm: cutting grass and gathering stones for sale by the roadside.

The future started long before, and we are already late.

Tetteh Quarshie planted the first cocoa seedlings here in 1879. 137 years later our cocoa farms are essentially still hoe-and-cutlass based and largely rain-fed. There is no to precious little industrial farming of cocoa. The same planting and drying processes of the 1870s apply today. And as for serious processing of the beans to secondary and tertiary levels, forget it.

Yet I understand that cocoa planted and solar-dried in Ghana has a unique rich quality and taste that grant it a premium branding on the market. Visit Hershey’s Park in Pennsylvania, take the ‘factory’ train tour and see and hear how fondly the tour speaks about Ghana cocoa – the beans, but that’s all. They even mimic the heat in Ghana at some point. But that’s all. When you do, don’t be impressed merely because Ghana is mentioned and depicted. Weep.

How we have conspired to do and achieve so little with so much, must amaze Almighty God Himself.

Last month, while in Berlin, a client asked me for some chocolate with some alcohol, with a specific name. Of course, I promptly forgot. But on the last day, while going through a shop (KaDeWe), I remembered. So I asked to be shown where chocolates were sold in the shop. Awurade, it was a whole floor of confectionary!! I went to the chocolate section and it was rows and rows of different chocolates, too many to count (similar to my last chocolate experience at Migros in Geneva.)

But I digress. As you can guess, I had also forgotten the name of the chocolate, so I asked the store attendant for one of every chocolate with alcohol. I was presented with a four of them – they said there were more but I was in a hurry. I was presented with Cognac chocolate (made in Switzerland with only 31% cocoa), Rum chocolate (made in Germany with only 30% cocoa), Jamaican Rum chocolate (made in Germany with 60% cocoa) and Williams Whiskey chocolate (made in Switzerland with just 31% cocoa).



13239887_10153795831076731_6178985042487685037_n.jpg13239908_10153795830946731_2999954614446241982_n.jpgAt first, I was tickled. Then I got sad all over again. Why?

First, and Ok, I may not take in alcohol. But where is Ghana Palm Wine Chocolate and Ghana Akpeteshie Chocolate made and sold locally, and then in Tesco, Waitrose, Walmart, Food Lion, KaDeWe or Migros? Don’t come and talk to me about the Ghana chocolate produce in East Asia!

Second, note that the cocoa content in them range from 30% to 60% peh. Yet people buy and eat them plenty, and make the manufactures millionaires. It appears to me that many of the actual consumers of chocolates worldwide do not care about the so-called high cocoa content. So our boasting that our local chocolates have 80% or higher cocoa content might just mean that we really can’t afford all the imported, additional stuff that we need to convert the cocoa into chocolates, so we comfort ourselves about the “health benefits” of having plenty cocoa in chocolates.

Guys, the people who pay good money to buy and eat chocolates don’t appear to care. Why should we? Produce the healthy chocolate, but by all means produce the ‘unhealthy’ chocolate too, with 30% cocoa and 10% ogogro/kill-me-quick/VC 10 from the blue kiosk!

Credit: Ace Ankomah