Akyem Tafo, in the Eastern Region of Ghana, will soon become a major West African hub for cocoa flavor and quality, with the first of its kind Flavor Laboratory and Training Centre set to open this year. This is why I recently travelled there as part of my flavor journey and attended a joyful event to mark the start of the building process: the sod cutting ceremony. Let’s reflect on what this new center will bring to Ghana’s cocoa sector and how it will help cocoa farmers prosper.
Why a new Flavor Laboratory and Training Centre?
Over the years, the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) has conducted research to preserve the natural flavor of cocoa produced in Ghana. Their quest to enhance the capacity of key industry players in flavor quality has been hampered by limited space for flavor quality trainings.
According to Stephen Opoku, lab Coordinator at CRIG, the current facility is congested and unable to accommodate more than six people per training. With the growing interest in preserving the quality of Ghanaian chocolate flavor, it has become imperative to create a modern facility that can accommodate the training demands of all industry players. CRIG has for instance been unable so far to train the staff of the Cocoa Health and Extension Division (CHED). If trained, they in turn could cascade the training to farmers at district level.
Recognizing this need and the role of CRIG in WCF’s Africa Cocoa Initiative, WCF members TCHO and mother company Ezaki Glico have mobilized resources (approx. $170,000 US) for the construction of the new Flavor Laboratory and Training Centre. When completed, the new 3,750 square meter building will serve as the hub for flavor quality in West Africa with facilities including a laboratory, office space, and conference rooms for more than 100 people. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, the building was expected to be completed in six months, ready in time to celebrate cocoa day in October 2020.
This center will not only be useful for Ghana, but will foster cross-country research and partnerships, especially with Nigeria and Cameroon. This will ensure countries not only focus on physical attributes of cocoa beans but will also protect the rich historical flavor of West African cocoa. The center will help position CRIG as a thought leader in flavor quality work, with quality trainers supporting company supply chains and other organizations. These trainings will make it possible for CRIG to reach out to more stakeholders and increase awareness on the need to ensure good harvest and post-harvest practices.
Sod cutting ceremony
The historic sod cutting ceremony took place on February 25, 2020. The event brought together industry representatives from key government institutions, companies, Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), and lab equipment provider CocoaTown. During the event, Dr. Emmanuel Dwomoh, Deputy Chief Executive of COCOBOD, explained, “This building is very important to Ghana’s cocoa industry. (…) It fits very well into the government’s productivity enhancement program which is aimed at ensuring increased and sustainable production of high-quality premium cocoa to serve the chocolate and confectionery industry.” He also expressed confidence in the ability of CRIG scientists to “enhance research in flavor and bean quality, develop improved variety with a unique and diverse flavor profile for the niche markets” upon completion of the new facility. The chief of the Tafo traditional area, Osabarima Nana Adusei Peasah IV, recounted the support and guidance the CRIG flavor quality team provided him. This led to his selection among the top 50 farmers celebrated at the 2015 Cocoa of Excellence Awards.
How does this fit into WCF’s pathway to sustainable cocoa?
WCF helped establish the current flavor laboratory at CRIG through the African Cocoa Initiative, including both small-scale and large-scale chocolate and liquor making equipment and technical trainings for farmers, company representatives, and other stakeholders at the flavor quality lab.
As part of the African Cocoa Initiative, farmers receive training on good harvest and post-harvest practices from CRIG flavor quality professionals. Farmers receive cocoa liquor tasting samples to inform contributions to improving flavor quality. This supports WCF’s vision of helping farmers prosper through improved quality beans that have the potential to attract higher premiums.
It is our expectation that the completion of the new flavor quality complex will nurture many more West African farmers to follow in the footsteps of Samuel Tetteh Korboe. This celebrated Ghanaian farmer won a prize at the 2019 edition of the International Cocoa Awards, following a selection and evaluation process involving 50 entrants, 223 cocoa samples and 55 cocoa-producing countries.
* WCF member companies supporting ACI at the time of the flavor lab’s inception were ADM Cocoa; Barry Callebaut; Blommer Chocolate Company; Cargill; Continaf BV; Ferrero; Guittard Chocolate Company; The Hershey Company; Lindt & Sprüngli; Mars, Incorporated; Mondelēz International; Nestlé; Noble Resources; and Olam International Ltd. TCHO served as a technical partner to WCF for the flavor lab portion of ACI.