By Maytaal Angel and Ange Aboa
LONDON/ABIDJAN, Nov 19 (Reuters) - The head of Ghana's cocoa regulator on Thursday rejected the findings of studies funded by Western countries that have shown child labour is on the rise in the African nation's cocoa sector.
A major U.S. Department of Labor study released last month found the use of child labour on cocoa farms in top producers Ivory Coast and Ghana had risen over the past decade despite efforts made by government and industry to reduce it.
"Any study (that) declares child labour in cocoa is in the ascendancy in Ghana, we cannot help but take it with a pinch of salt," Joseph Aidoo, chief executive of Ghanaian regulator Cocobod said at the World Cocoa Foundation conference.
Aidoo said Ghana had, over the past 15 years, removed taxes and fees related to basic schooling, started a school feeding programme and a mass cocoa spraying programme, and introduced machines to replace the use of machetes.
Western governments are looking to legislate against the import of commodities such as cocoa linked to child labour and deforestation following years of what they say have been failed attempts by industry and commodity producing countries to tackle the problems.
A reduction in Western imports of Ivorian and Ghanaian cocoa would have serious consequences for the West African nations' economies. Cocoa makes up about 15% of Ghana's total exports and about 40% of Ivory Coast's total exports.
(Reporting by Maytaal Angel; editing by David Evans)
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