THE Cocoa tray fermentation project introduced into the cocoa industry about three years ago is receiving high patronage from farmers.
So far about 1,800 farmers in the Sankore and Sefwi Wiawso cocoa districts in the Brong Ahafo and Western Regions have signed on to the project and the number is expected to increase in the coming years.
The tray fermentation project, an initiative of the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG) in conjunction with Armajaro Ghana Limited, a leading licensed cocoa buying company (LBC) with headquarters in Kumasi and Tom’s Confectionary Group of Denmark sought to find alternative ways of fermenting cocoa apart from the traditional heap fermentation.
It involves the construction of special wooden trays with openings at the back by CRIG in which the cocoa beans are dried.
Clients of Ghana’s cocoa industry demand cocoa beans fermented and dried under environmentally sound conditions cocoa.
The incidence of purple beans, which resulted in financial losses to licensed buying companies (LBCs) and became a major threat to the cocoa industry between 2005 and 2007, was traced, among other things, to improper fermentation.
Brong Ahafo and Western Regions are piloting tray fermentation project, the success of which will result in its replication in other cocoa-growing regions of the country.
A review forum has been held at Sefwi Wiawso in the Western Region.
Stakeholders in the tray fermentation project assessed progress made so far in the three years of the project life and the way forward as a viable and sustainable alternative to the traditional heap fermentation method.
The workshop, on the theme: “Tray fermentation: Adding value to Ghana cocoa,” elicited from participating farmers their experiences so far with the project and was also a platform for sensitising new farmers to the project
Submissions by farmers revealed, among other things, that the method was environmentally friendly; reduced fermentation period, that is four days instead of six days for heap and ensured shorter drying period (8-10 days).
They further testified that the beans had more weight; there was uniformity of bean size and colour, and that the trays had become unit of measure in themselves as two full trays gave one bag, hence no litigation about the weighing scale.
A research officer at CRIG, Dr S.T. Lowor said CRIG had constructed thousands of the trays and supplied them to farmers with financial support from Armajaro Ghana Limited.
He stated that proper fermentation was crucial to building a strong cocoa industry, which is why every effort is being made to get many farmers to adopt the tray system.
Ms Lene Lorenzen of the Tom’s Group said special chocolate made with tray-fermented cocoa from Ghana was in high demand.
He said there was, therefore, the need for farmers to adopt the method for the benefit of Ghana’s cocoa industry.
The Managing Director of Armajaro Ghana Limited, Mr Rahu Gopinath, gave the assurance that the company would not relent in its efforts to get the best for Ghana’s cocoa industry.