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Cargill looks to counter diseased Indonesian trees with sustainable cocoa investment

By Oliver Nieburg+

18-Oct-2012
Last updated on 22-Oct-2012 at 11:32 GMT

Cargill plans to train farmers how to prevent diseases such as cocoa pod borer
Cargill plans to train farmers how to prevent diseases such as cocoa pod borer

Cargill has extended its sustainable cocoa program to Indonesia and plans to take preventative measure to turn ailing crops into high cocoa yielding money-spinners.

The company hopes to boost cocoa yields in the country, that is the world’s third largest cocoa producer, as demand for cocoa surges in Asia.

Cocoa yields in Indonesia have come under threat from diseases and pests brought about by adverse weather conditions that have hampered a $350m campaign by the The Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute (ICCR) to boost yields to meet Asian demand.

Yields have also been impacted by cloned trees supplied by ICCR that are producing defective cocoa beans.  In a recent interview with news agency Reuters, an Indonesian cocoa farmer called these cocoa trees "Frankentrees" that produced blackened and shriveled beans.

Disease risk

Taco Terheijden, manager sustainable cocoa from Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate, told ConfectioneryNews.com: “The main cause of poor yields is the prevalence of pests and diseases."

“Cargill’s Crop Research Analysts estimate that over 50% of the cocoa crop in Indonesia is lost to pests and diseases, such as Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB), Black Pod and Vascular-Streak Dieback (VSD).”

Farmer training

Cargill has refused to communicate how much it is investing to improve yields, but did explain how money would be spent.

It will set-up farmer training schools to educate cocoa growers on maintaining crops to guard against pests and diseases with a focus on CPD and VSD.

“The Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute (ICCR) has identified pests, disease, and lack of expertise in good agricultural practices as major reasons for problems around yields in Indonesia,” said Terheijden.

“Cargill’s farmer training, in its Farmer Field Schools, is specifically structured to address these issues,” he continued.

Implementation

The company aims to train 1,000 cocoa farmers in good agricultural practices by 2015 to reach independent sustainable certification for either UTZ or Rainforest Alliance.

The program will start in South Sulawesi and will be extended to other regions in the next few years.

The scheme is supported by the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), the South Sulawesi local government and Swisscontact.

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