African Cocoa Producers Increasingly Looking to Data Collection, Warehouse Logistics

Meagan Douglas
Mon, Jun 3, 2013

In order to help grow the cocoa industry in West Africa, industry leaders and government officials in Ghana are encouraging farmers and other supply chain partners to further leverage data collection and warehouse management systems.

The Ghana News Agency reported that a coalition of groups, including various government agencies, trade organizations and international bodies, convened a workshop in late May to explain the benefits of automated data collection and other warehouse management practices to cocoa farmers and producers in the region. The purpose of the event, according to its organizers, was to help individuals and companies operating in Ghana to better understand how warehousing initiatives can help them boost the region's agricultural profile on the world stage.

The Ghanaian news source The Chronicle reported that approximately 53 percent of all cocoa grown worldwide comes from Ghana and neighboring Côte d'Ivoire. Ghana's cocoa industry can grow more than 1 million metric tons of product during a three-month span, and the sector accounts for around 3.4 percent of the nation's gross domestic product.

"More than half of the world's chocolate comes from the cocoa plantations of Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire, where hundreds of thousands of smallholder farmers supply lucrative fair-trade markets in developed countries," stated a report from the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture.

Why Ghana's Cocoa Industry Needs More Data Collection
However, a widespread lack of data collection software and other warehouse management solutions threatens to derail Ghana's growing cocoa industry. In particular, Ghana News Agency reported that many cocoa processors in the country do not have uniform inventory management and hygiene systems in place, which is causing rising concerns among companies operating within the global chocolate supply chain that West African cocoa may contain alarming amounts of chemical contaminants.

Increasingly, food production organizations are shining a brighter spotlight on their multi-tiered supply chain partners in order to gain greater insight into their partners. Consumers are more frequently clamoring about the source of the food being sold, and businesses are responding accordingly by demanding more information from their disparate suppliers. Since many cocoa farmers and warehouse managers in Ghana currently collect little or no information about their stores, what chemicals were used on the plants and in what quantities, chocolate producers in other parts of the world are becoming more fearful about Ghanaian chocolate and will soon start looking elsewhere for their supplies, GNA reported.

"The world has certainly changed in the last few decades. It is now possible to source products and ingredients from around the globe without even thinking about it," Dr. Rebeca López-García, Principal at Logre International Food Science Consulting, wrote in Food Safety Magazine. "However, with great change come complex problems. Now as never before, we must be aware of potential contamination incidents and sources of contamination that may affect the safety and quality of our products."

In particular, those involved in the region's cocoa industry could especially benefit from barcode data collection. The technology is cost effective, easy to use and has a proven track record of reliability, meaning that it could immediately boost the profile and trustworthiness of the Ghanaian agriculture sector on the world stage.

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