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NEW UPDATES Asean Affairs  2 October 2014  

Seminar looks at future of local cocoa industry

 Agricultural officials, experts, farmers, and business executives yesterday discussed the state of the cocoa industry and the opportunities to develop it in Binh Phuoc and the south-eastern region at a seminar held in the province.

Organised by the "Cooperation for enhancing sustainable cocoa development" project (also known as PPP Cocoa) in collaboration with the Binh Phuoc Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, it sought to help agriculture managers and policy makers come up with a more efficient production paradigm to deliver benefits to farmers and the agricultural sector in the region.

Le Thi Phi Van, a researcher at the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, said a study done in Binh Phuoc in July underlined the great potential of the cocoa industry.

"The climatic conditions and soil and the very large area under cashew (around 140,000 ha) are ideal for developing an intensive cocoa-cashew farming model there," she said.

Nguyen Van Hoa, deputy director of the Department of Crop Production, said the cocoa-cashew model was, if enough water was available, a suitable intercropping solution for cashew growing areas, helping increase the productivity and quality of both crops.

There were many successful instances of this model in the province which have delivered more efficiency for farmers and increased the value of each unit of land, he said.

Le Xuan Phien, a farmer in Thong Nhat Commune in the province's Bu Dang District, said that he planted 600 cocoa trees on one hectare of cashew and coffee, annually harvesting around one tonne of dry cocoa beans, two tonnes of cashew, and 1.2 tonnes of coffee to earn more than VND100 million (US$4,760). "Since we intensively farm cocoa-cashew, my family's income has increased by VND40-60 million ($1,900-2,850) a year."

Nguyen Vinh Thanh, director of the cocoa sector at Cargill Viet Nam, said, "When planting 500 additional cocoa trees on one hectare of cashew and intensively farm both, farmers can double their income to around VND80 million ($3,800) per hectare at current prices."

In the domestic market, fermented cocoa bean prices have been stable since the beginning of the year at VND55,000-59,000 ($2.6-2.8) per kilogram (excluding the premium), a significant increase from the VND45,000 ($2.1) prevailing at the end of last year.

When farmers apply proper farming practices and suitable fertilisers, cocoa trees offer high yields and profits.

Binh Phuoc has been implementing policies to enable farmers to grow cocoa in a sustainable manner, and targets increasing the area under intensive cocoa-cashew farming to 20-30 thousand hectares by 2020.

Phan Van Don, deputy director of the Binh Phuoc Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said, "The model of intensive cocoa-cashew farming in the province has brought about greater efficiencies and saving of lands compared to monoculture crops, contributing to a shift towards crop diversification and the province's poverty reduction programme."

With its potential and advantages, the province was expected to become one of the major cocoa-growing regions in Viet Nam, contributing greatly to socio-economic development at the local and national levels, he said.

The cocoa sector in the province also receives great support from the private sector. The PPP Cocoa project, for instance, aligns the public efforts with those by Mars, Cargill, Grand Place Puratos, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Dutch Government, Rabobank Foundation, and IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative.

PPP Cocoa aims to achieve sustainable development in Viet Nam by supporting the development of quality seeds, technical transfer through training and creation of model fields, lending fertilisers, and making a commitment to buy cocoa.

The cocoa industry sees new opportunities thanks to the growing global demand, which is expected to cause a shortage of one million tonnes in 2020, according to experts. The demand is rising significantly in populous emerging countries like China, India, and Indonesia, which are also Viet Nam's markets.

Viet Nam has suitable climate and soil for the crop, and its cocoa products are considered among the world's best.

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