ACCRA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Ghana's new government is pondering full liberalization of the cocoa sector in renewed efforts to significantly lift production above 1 million tonnes yearly, a minister designate said on Tuesday.
The world's second largest cocoa producer with an average annual output of around 750,000 tonnes, only permits internal marketing of its beans with state-run regulator Cocobod as sole exporter.
Liberalization "is something that we'd look at as part of the measures that we'd want to take in order to increase cocoa production," Owusu Afriyie Akoto, nominated as agriculture minister told a parliamentary committee vetting him for the job.
Under the existing policy, Cocobod provides seed money to private buyers to purchase cocoa from farmers on its behalf.
"It's a very conservative arrangement that we have for cocoa ... but definitely (liberalizing) it is something that is worth considering in our efforts to increase production," he said.
Akoto, a former economic advisor at the London-based International Coffee Organization, said government would also invest heavily in cocoa pest control and fertilisation under a hi-tech programme.
The government of Nana Akufo-Addo, sworn in on Jan. 7, said its priority is to push annual cocoa output above 1 million tonnes, using a series of fresh measures.
"The challenge is to bring up our production to the level of Ivory Coast," Akoto said, adding that the targets could be achieved within the next four years.
Akufo-Addo in mid January fired the Cocobod head Stephen Opuni, asking him to handover to Akoto, indicating relocation of the industry regulator to the agriculture ministry from Finance previously.
The government has yet to name a new head for Cocobod. (Reporting by Kwasi Kpodo; editing by Grant McCool)