The Ministry of Education has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with indigenous cocoa processor, Niche Confectionery Ghana LTD (Confectionery Ghana), to supply enriched ready-to-drink cocoa beverages to basic school children across the country.
The Minister of Education, Dr Yaw Osei Adutwum, signed the pact on behalf of the ministry while the Chief Executive Officer of Niche Cocoa Industry Limited, the parent company of Confectionery Ghana, Edmund Poku, initialed for the confectionery maker.
The agreement signed last Friday in Accra allows Confectionery Ghana, to supply enriched ready-to-drink cocoa beverages to 1.8 million basic school children in the six cocoa growing regions of Ghana.
It allows the company to further extend supplies to 5.6 million children nationwide.
Per the undertaking, Confectionery Ghana is to provide basic school children in the selected schools with at least one ready-to-drink cocoa beverage per week as part of a collective effort by the government and the company to increase cocoa consumption within the country. Per capita consumption of cocoa in Ghana is currently approximately 0.5 kilograms (kg) although it is the second largest producer of the crop in the world.
Dr Adutwum said after the signing ceremony that the nutrition of every child in school remained one of the priorities of government and the ministry.
“This is why I am happy to sign an MOU between Confectionery Ghana and the Ministry of Education. The MOU will allow Confectionery to distribute chocolate beverages to primary school children in selected public schools across the country, with preference given to cocoa growing communities,” the Education Minister said.
The Managing Director of Confectionery Ghana, Gladys Amoah, said in an interview that the company’s business plan aligned well with the President and the government’s vision of giving Ghanaian children access to Ghanaian cocoa-based products.
Mrs Amoah said the parent company had a vision of improving the consumption of cocoa by adding value to the cocoa bean and translating that into consumer-ready products.
“The government is looking to drive the implementation of the School Feeding Program and has the intention of feeding 5.6 million children one meal a day for 100 school days. President Akufo-Addo has a further vision of ensuring that every child has access to a cocoa beverage, which is aligned to our vision to improve the consumption of cocoa in Ghana,” she said.
Mrs Amoah noted that the company aimed to achieve this while having a positive impact on the economy as well as key communities where cocoa was sourced.
This, she said, led to the establishment of Confectionery Ghana to produce consumer-ready products that would be consumed both at home and abroad.
She said the company, which already sells a range of chocolate bars in the market, had successfully launched a range of enriched ready-to-drink chocolate drinks and was now about to add a range of powdered chocolate and chocolate spreads to the list.
She said the chocolate drink was special to the business as it was formulated with the intension of supporting the nutritional needs of the Ghanaian child.
“It is fortified with B vitamins and has added minerals such as Zinc and Iron that support child development. The business has considered how it could be involved in supplying the chocolate beverage to children and it is this desire that has led to the signing of the MoU between Confectionery Ghana and the Ministry of Education.” the MD said.
Mrs Amoah said the company was also concerned about using its operations to impact cocoa farmers positively, and was therefore, excited that the initiative would start within cocoa growing regions.
She said cocoa was a nutritious crop, high in fibre, iron and antioxidants, among other essentials and expressed the hope that the operationalisation of the agreement would help to address the nutritional gaps facing Ghanaian children.
Citing data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), she said Ghana had a health and nutrition challenge, with one in 10 children under five showing stunted growth and also lacking appropriate nutrients for development.
“The bulk of these challenges are within the rural areas, which also happen to be the areas where cocoa beans are sourced from.”
“Having a meal at breakfast supports cognition, especially among undernourished children. The World Food Programme has calculated that for every one cedi invested in feeding a child, you yield GHS3.3 in return.”
“This offers Confectionery Ghana an opportunity to have a positive impact on the community through improving the performance of children in school and also provide a potential future positive impact on the Ghanaian economy,” she said.
The MD said with the school feeding initiative, many children in farming areas would get to taste finished cocoa products for the first time in their lives,” she added.