QCC’S RESEARCH DEPARTMENT.
The Research Department of the Quality Control Company Limited is established to develop and provide systematic strategies that will ensure the supply of pest free cocoa with acceptable pesticide residue levels to both local and international markets. With its research and monitoring activities relating to the physical, entomological, microbiological, nutritional and biochemical attributes of dried cocoa beans, it is mandated to provide technical advice based on state-of-the-art technologies that ensure the exportation of quality cocoa on the world market. These functions support the policies and mission of the Quality Control Company Limited (QCC) of the Ghana Cocoa Board which aims at the exportation of premium quality cocoa that consistently meets or exceeds customer satisfaction. The Research Laboratory is based in Tema in the Greater Accra Region and has two substations in Tarkoradi and Kaase Inland Ports in the Western and Ashanti Regions respectively. The operations of the Research Department are seated in five functional units namely, Physical, Entomology, Microbiology, Biochemical and Metrology Units. Each of these units conducts monitoring and research activities of interest to the cocoa trade.
The Unit monitors biochemical attributes of dry cocoa nib and shells by analyzing its fat content, free fatty acid levels, pH as well as total yield. Since these attributes are crucial in the trading activities of marketers and buyers, data generated from the monitoring activity are guides in the taking of trading decisions. Furthermore, the unit determines the levels of pesticide residues in exportable cocoa prior to shipment overseas. The laboratory has the capacity to confirm the presence of active ingredients in pesticides and other products. Periodically, the laboratory carries out surveillance on pesticide distribution on the field and markets and educates farmers on the effects of abuse of chemical usage. Analyses are extended to other crops like cashew nuts, shea nut and butter, cocoa waste, etc. for other companies. The laboratory is equipped with modern sensitive analytical instruments such as Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer (GCMS), High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer (AAS), Accelerated Solvent Extractor (ASE) and assorted instruments that provide us with a wide scope of analytical services. The laboratory will soon monitor the incidence of heavy metals (e.g. cadmium), polyaromatic hydrocarbons and other contaminants that are relevant to the cocoa trade, and provide scientific advice on how to reduce the prevalence of these contaminants.
The Entomology unit evaluates the efficacy of pesticides and the suitability of applicators and diluents for pesticide concentrates. It establishes standards, procedures and techniques in the application of the pesticides and monitors the usage, application and documentation of the pesticides as well as strict adherence to the procedures adopted on the field. . Based on the above, the effectiveness of pest control activities of the company is carried out and corrective actions are proposed. The unit also tests equipment and machinery such as foggers and sprayers which are relevant to QCC functions and provide technical advice on their procurement.
MICROBIOLOGY AND NUTRITION UNIT
The Microbiology and Nutrition unit profile microorganisms such as fungus, yeast and bacteria that are relevant to quality of cocoa. They monitor the prevalence of types of moulds and generate data for emerging food safety concerns relating to contamination of cocoa by mycotoxins, specifically, ochratoxin A.
METROLOGY AND TOOL MAITENANCE UNIT
QCC, recognises that inspection is a critical step in product development and quality control and therefore has set up a Metrology and Tool Maintenance unit which is responsible for the calibration and verification of measurement equipment used as tools of trade in the QCC inspection services. The Unit also maintains, service and/or repair the electronic measuring devices and the tools of trade from time to time.
The Physical Unit Audits some aspects of QCC field staff operations that are critical to quality of cocoa by cross-checking the physical attributes of cocoa beans such as bean count, bean weight, uniformity of beans and moisture content assigned to parcels of cocoa by both upcountry and the ports’ operatives. Thus it monitors the implementation of the laid down instructions and standards of operations/procedures by staff and alerts Management on any deviation from the norm with recommendations. The Unit also keeps reference subsamples of cocoa shipped to buyers in the event of and investigates problems relating to arbitrations for violations in the quality of cocoa shipped to overseas countries.