Mr Kwabena Okyere Darko-Mensah, the Western Regional Minister, Tuesday, urged entrepreneurs to set up factories to process coconut in the area, which produces about 85 per cent of the fruit crop on the Ghanaian market.
He said there was the need to leverage on the African Continental Free Trade Agreement to export both raw and processed coconut to all African countries, adding that Nigeria had been importing the fruit for many years.
Ghana could also produce more activated carbon from the shell of coconut that could be used for the extraction of gold and other minerals, and so export them to mining areas in Africa such as Angola, South Africa, and Mozambique, he said.
Mr Darko-Mensah was addressing the maiden International Coconut Festival, which stakeholders said would highlight the opportunities in the sector towards creating jobs for the teeming unemployed youth, while improving forex receipts.
The Ghana Chapter of the African Coconut Group, with support from the Ghana Export Promotion Authority (GEPA), the Ghana Free Zones Authority, and the Hortifresh Fruits and Vegetable West Africa, is organising the three-day event.
The Minister said the Region had targeted to plant five million coconut trees and should 80 per cent of them survive, the region would be making a minimum of four million dollars annually from the produce.
“When coconut production is scaled up across the country, we could boast of making about two billion dollars annually from the tree crop,” he stated.
“All that the farmers are interested in is the assurance of an off-taker to buy their products and once that assurance is given, production will go up”.
He, therefore, urged the private sector to come on board to set up nurseries to support the initiative of planting more coconut tree across the country so that the value chain would be beneficial to all actors.
Madam Afua Asabea Asare, the Chief Executive Officer of GEPA, said the Authority remained resolute in supporting the growth of coconut, aimed at increasing diversity of products exported from Ghana.
The Authority, she said, firmly believed that the numerous innovative products from coconut in the cosmetics, food, handicrafts and medicine sectors, among others, displayed at the festival would spark up new business ideas for the talented and the business minded individuals.
Cash crops such as coconut provide limitless opportunities due to functional nature of the tree crop, thus inspiring the youth to take an interest in its business.
She commended President Akufo-Addo for introducing the Planting for Export and Rural Development (PERD) programme, of which coconut is a major crop, with the aim of increasing the production of six different crops while creating employment.
Mr Davies Korboe, the Chairman of the Ghana Chapter of the Africa Coconut Group, also emphasised the export value of coconut, saying it provided one of the avenues for minimising poverty.
Patrons of the festival are from Canada, Nigeria and China.