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Our Thoughts On Cocoa:

Cocoa - a noble tree

Theobroma cacao
Theobroma cacao
  • Cocoa provides employment in many rural communities as well as giving cash to many small farmers without which, they could not pay for school fees etc.
  • Cocoa can be considered as environmentally friendly in that the trees sequester carbon, and protect the soil from erosion as well providing a excellent habitat for endangered wildlife in Tropical areas.
  • Cocoa also yields a non- perishable product. Once fermented and dried, cocoa beans can be stored for several months and thus a good infrastructure is not required.

Over 80% of cocoa grown globally is grown by smallholders and smallholder cocoa is especially important since it is grown mostly under shade trees and either inter-cropped or grown in a semi-natural agro-forestry setting and hence, is a particularly rich and stable habitat for many species (biodiversity). However, we think these small farmers are greatly under-appreciated and under-rewarded for the stewardship of their land as well as for the commodity that they grow.

Underpinning sustainable development

Cocoa can be an important engine of sustainable development to lift farmers above subsistence agriculture and hence contribute to a sustainable life-style but cocoa farmers face many constraints the most important of which are, pests and diseases, quality problems due to poor processing, poor infrastructure and poor commercialisation. All these problems lead to higher production costs and/or low prices. Unprecedented low cocoa prices (at the farm gate) over a number of years have resulted in small holders abandoning cocoa farms in favour of more lucrative businesses and continuing low prices has lead to a drift away from cocoa farming by the younger generation; cocoa farmers are generally middle aged or elderly with no prospect of their children becoming interested. If this continues, expertise in cocoa growing will disappear.

However, very recently, the situation may have started to improve. Daily average prices have increased by more than 50% between December 2000 and February 2001 and global demand for chocolate has started to increase. Much of this increase in demand has been growing markets in former Communist countries and Eastern Asia. The International Cocoa and Chocolate Organisation (ICCO) has suggested that world consumption will rise more than 2% in the coming year. This is good news for cocoa growers world wide.

Nevertheless, ICCO have also predicted a 8% drop in production in 2000-2001 leaving a shortfall of 205,000 tonnes on projected demand. This is compared to a surplus of 91,100 during 1999-2000. Production in West Africa (largest producer of cocoa) has been particularly hit due to a combination of factors including problems with pests and disease.

Helping small farmer cocoa

At CABI Commodities, we believe that for many reasons it is vitally important that small farmer cocoa production remains profitable yet environmentally sustainable and our fundamental purpose is to help them achieve this.

How CABI can help?

A growing demand for cocoa has been predicted to occur this millennium and has apparently started (see above) as the spending power of people from former Communist countries increases thus allowing them to spend money on "luxury" goods like chocolate. However, this demand will only be met and production increased by the control of pests and diseases that together cause over 40% of potential production world-wide to be lost ANNUALLY.

Throughout the world, CABI Commodities scientists and their collaborators are developing novel control methods to promote sustainable cocoa production.

 
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Contact CABI Commodities:
CABI Commodities Coffee Co-ordinator - Dr. Peter Baker - p.baker@cabi.org
CABI Commodities Cocoa Co-ordinator - Dr. J. Flood - j.flood@cabi.org
CABI Commodities Project Administrator - cabi-commodities@cabi.org