Our Africa commitment in action
November 29, 2012
At last week’s World Cocoa Conference in Côte d’Ivoire, Syngenta shared best practices on intensifying productivity and empowering growers.
Originating in Latin America, cocoa was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards in the 17th Century. Today, cocoa is mainly grown in West Africa, with more than 70% of the global production coming from just four countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon.
Côte d’Ivoire, the largest cocoa producer in the world, was the host of the first ever World Cocoa Conference from November 19-23. The event provided the entire cocoa value chain with the opportunity to discuss how to support smallholder cocoa growers increase profitability and improve their livelihoods. Discussions also focused on solutions to dramatically increase the world’s cocoa production. With many emerging market economies growing and dietary patterns shifting, it is estimated annual demand for cocoa reaching 5 million tonnes by 2020.
Meeting demand sustainably
Cocoa is mainly grown on family farms, typically cultivating less than three hectares of land. Current average yields for smallholders in West Africa are around 300 to 400kg per hectare, which provides growers with little income. Moreover, most plantations have been cultivated for generations and have ageing tree stock. In Cameroon, for example, it is estimated that on half of all plantations trees are more than 50 years old, which results in lower yields and beans of lower quality.
As cocoa trees need tropical growing conditions, plantations are located in rainforest areas. This is an additional challenge as existing acreage cannot easily be extended to meet increasing global demand.
Empowering growers with good practices
“Just by applying good agricultural practices, we can help growers to more than double their yields, without using more land and expanding into rainforest,” explains Martin Kodde, Head of Food Chain Engagement. “To achieve this, we provide training in tree and disease management as well as good practice for drying and storing beans. We also train growers in the effective and safe application of our crop protection products and the proper maintenance of the equipment.”
Best agricultural practices are hugely important to acquire essential official certification. Traders pay a premium for defined quality and certified cocoa as it will help them guarantee that crop is produced under agreed protocols and standards.
Another method to raise productivity is the phased replacement of older cocoa trees by younger, higher-yielding plants. To achieve this, the seeds from the healthiest trees with the highest-quality beans are selected and grown in a nursery until they are strong enough to replace the older trees. It takes three years for a new cocoa tree to provide the first yield, so growers can only replace 10 to 20 percent at a time.
“Cocoa is a cash crop, which means it cannot be eaten, just sold. Applying good practices will lift many growers and their families out of poverty and enable them to share the benefits of economic growth,” concludes Kodde.
Syngenta has made a significant commitment to improving agricultural productivity in Africa. For more information, watch this video on Camcoa 300 in Cameroon.