First certified Vietnamese beans delivery is milestone for cocoa development in the region says Cargill

By Helen Glaberson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Agriculture

The delivery of Cargill’s first UTZ Certified beans from Vietnam marks an important milestone for the company in its bid to establish the region as a new origin country for cocoa, said the ingredients giant.

The development, which saw the arrival of the beans to Cargill’s buying station in Chau Thanh Ben Tre province, demonstrates the company’s role in building a global sustainable supply chain, continued the company.

Three Vietnamese cocoa plantations also recently received UTZ certification for sustainable cocoa following Cargill’s farmer training and the audit process in January.

Harold Poelma managing director cocoa, Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate told the company was aiming for the certification of more cooperatives as well as scaling up of production of sustainable cocoa.

“Cargill will continue to undertake research and provide training to cocoa farmers with respect to good agricultural practices,”​ he said.

The company founded the UTZ certified cocoa programme, along with Dutch development organization Solidaridad and others in the cocoa sector.

Meeting increasing demand

Cargill said that these recent developments will help it produce 600 metric tonnes of certified sustainable cocoa beans in 2011.

In total the company will produce 2,500 metric tonnes of cocoa this year, up from less than 20mt in 2004 when the project was initially set up.

Poelma said that output from the new cocoa-producing country will help the company cater for the growing global demand for cocoa beans, which is growing at 2 to 3 per cent per year.

“If supply does not increase, there will be insufficient cocoa to meet this demand,”​ said the managing director.

“The Vietnamese government recognises this too and has put a target of 100,000mt of cocoa to be produced each year by 2020,”​ he added.

Over the past six years Cargill has worked with the Vietnamese and Dutch governments and confectionery giant Mars to develop the production of sustainable cocoa in the country.

Poelma said that Vietnamese farmers have proven to be hard working, willing to learn, and very productive, “so there is every indication that the country should be successful in capturing part of this cocoa opportunity”.

Boosting output

In May 2011 the company opened its third buying station, located in Bu Dang, Binh Phuoc province. Cargill’s other two stations are located in Ben Tre and Daklak provinces and were established in 2005.

Since the start of the cocoa programme in 2004, Cargill said it has increased its cocoa output through a number of initiatives, such as the introduction of farmer training. This includes the teaching of good agricultural practice and cocoa-growing techniques.

“We educate them on farming and post harvest protocols as well as developing cocoa standards. In addition, Cargill set up a fertiliser lending scheme to nurture the soil. The aim behind this is to increase the yield and improve the quality of the yield,”​ said Poelma

“Just as importantly, Cargill set up a supply infrastructure by establishing local buying stations and trading connections; supporting the construction of seedling houses”​ he said.

In addition to this, Poelma said the company has built fermentation houses, and developed its access to global markets.

“The building of the first buying station was a crucial step as it created confidence for the farmers that they would actually be able to sell their new crop,”​ he added.

The world cocoa crop is around 3.5 million tonnes - 70 per cent of which comes from West Africa and close to 20 per cent from Asia.

Poelma​previously told this publication that although Vietnam is not a traditional cocoa producing country​the company had recognised its potential to grow a good crop due to suitable climate and soil conditions.

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