Ghana is on track for a record 800,000-tonne cocoa harvest this season, the head of sector body Cocobod told Reuters on Thursday, adding that any impact from smuggling from neighbouring Ivory Coast was limited so far.

However, with the world's top grower gripped in a political crisis that has led to a near-total halt in exports, Cocobod Chief Executive Tony Fofie said Ghana was taking measures to protect its premium cocoa from Ivorian inflows.

Currently, we are above 640,000 tonnes and we believe we'll achieve our new target of 800,000 tonnes by the close of the season, Fofie said in an interview, reaffirming a target raised from 700,000 last month.

Even though we haven't yet recorded any case of smuggled cocoa from Ivory Coast, we believe it is necessary to strengthen existing measures on the ground to safeguard the quality of our beans against possible inflows, he said.

A Cocobod source told Reuters on condition of anonymity that no more than 30,000 tonnes of beans could have been smuggled in from Ivory Coast so far this season, an amount too small to affect the crop quality of the world's second largest grower.

Fofie said the size of monitoring teams had been increased along the western border with Ivory Coast and the sector's quality control unit had been issued with extra grading rules for cross-checking quality and grading of beans.

In all, we've put in a lot more resources to strengthen security and monitoring of the borders and we have also intensified the grading and sealing system, he added.

Ghanaian cocoa has earned a reputation for high quality compared with its neighbour, which has suffered years of low investment in the aftermath of a 2002-03 civil war.

STORAGE GAINS

Purchases in Ghana's regulated cocoa sector dipped to below 650,000 in 2009-10 as local farmers smuggled beans into Ivory Coast to secure higher prices. Price reforms on either side of the border since then have erased the Ivorian price benefit.

Ghana is hoping to raise annual production to one million tonnes by the 2012-13 season and Fofie attribued the bumper harvest so far this season to improved planting techniques which had raised yield throughout the cocoa belt.

Analysts expect this year's Ivorian crop to total around 1.3 million tonnes.

Fofie confirmed reports of congestion at ports and warehouses due to the increase in this year's output and said Cocobod had secured new warehouses for storage.

We have just acquired a 30,000-tonne warehouse to augment our storage capacity and we hope that will ease congestions at the ports.

He said Cocobod has about 300,000 tonnes of storage with plans to build more as the country gets closer to its one-million-tonne target.