Home' Partners : Partners: Private-sector engagement Contents PARTNERS ISSUE ONE 2015
combined with good agricultural practices—
have the potential to increase productivity
two to threefold.
“ The partnership between ACIAR and
Mars Inc has led to some extremely influential
results at the research level,” says Peter van
Grinsven, cocoa and sustainability director of
Mars Inc. “Improved planting materials are
now part of an extensive breeding program.
Some clones are now officially approved by
the Indonesian Government and are even
being used in parts of Vietnam and the
Now earning up to US$15,000 (about
A$18,900) per year, the Mars Cocoa Village
Centers (CVCs) are an attractive business model
for other smallholder farmers who, in turn, may
be encouraged to establish their own centres
and roll out much-needed goods and services.
“ To get the planting material to scale will
require effort not just of Mars, but a coalition of
the entire cocoa industry and government,” says
Fay Fay Choo from Mars Inc. With increasing
global demand for cocoa showing no signs
of slowing, partnerships between research
agencies and private companies have become
more important than ever. They represent the
nature of long-term sustainable agricultural
change, grounding commercial frameworks in
scientific methods for success.
Cocoa is produced from fruit of the tropical
tree Theobroma cacao, which literally translates
as ‘food of the Gods’. Chocolate is made by
fermenting the beans found in the fruit and
contains high levels of antioxidants that
are linked to reducing blood pressure and
enhancing happiness. Cocoa butter, extracted
from the same beans, provides the basic
ingredients for many cosmetics.
Most of the world’s cocoa supply comes
from West Africa. As world chocolate
consumption increases, particularly in the
developing economies of Asia and Latin
America, chocolate manufacturers are
increasingly concerned about the sustainability
and security of production and the industry’s
ability to meet future demand.
Consequently, many chocolate companies
looked to significantly increase production from
South-East Asia and the Pacific. Sustainably
increasing cocoa production provides an
opportunity to drive economic development
that brings better living standards to
smallholder farming communities.
The ACIAR project team included participants
from La Trobe University, the University of
Melbourne and the Indonesian Coffee and
Cocoa Research Institute. They worked with
Mars Inc to select new cocoa genotypes with
improved yield, disease resistance and higher
A germplasm collection was initially
established and maintained at the PT Effem
(Mars Inc) factory in Makassar, Indonesia, and
later at the Mars Cocoa Development Center
(MCDC). The Mars training centre has recently
been upgraded to become the Mars Cocoa
Academy and Cocoa Research Station, both at
the same location in Tarengge, South Sulawesi.
Recognising the need for a significant revival
of the flagging industry, ACIAR supported a
varietal-improvement program to increase the
resilience of cocoa trees to external influences.
This involved grafting high-performing cocoa
trees to produce superior-quality seedlings.
ACIAR funded a follow-on project (2006–10)
that shifted the focus to South Sulawesi and
linked with Hasanuddin University to develop
improved cocoa-management strategies.
Project activities were extended into Papua,
where Mars Inc had established a local Cocoa
Development Center (CDC). A third phase
(2011–15) added soil fertility management and
the development of effective extension policies
and methodologies to the ongoing breeding
and cocoa-management activities.
Mars Inc has also been in a position to align
the activities of several aid projects involving
non-government organisations (NGOs), thus
Mars Inc and ACIAR were instrumental
in establishing the Cocoa Sustainability
Partnership, based in Makassar. This alliance
brings together stakeholders, including
government organisations, aid agencies, NGOs
and cocoa traders to facilitate and support
complementary activities to promote cocoa
sustainability in Indonesia.
The collaboration has now extended
beyond Indonesia. Mars Inc has supported the
development of a cocoa industry in Vietnam
and supported the establishment of a regional
cocoa breeders forum (the Asia-Pacific Cocoa
Breeders Working Group) aimed at sharing
germplasm resources and building cocoa-
breeding capacity across the region.
Mars Inc has supported travel and training
for cocoa breeders, including helping Peter
Epaina from the Papua New Guinea Cocoa and
Coconut Institute (PNG-CCI) to undertake part
of his University of Sydney PhD studies at the
US Department of Agriculture’s Cocoa Research
Center in Florida.
In PNG, Mars Inc has also been a key
collaborator supporting ACIAR projects based
at PNG-CCI, including a new project aimed at
intensifying cocoa management, diversifying
farm income and connecting farmers with
“Rather than just increasing access to
superior-quality produce, scientific research
must be paired with a commercial framework
if it is to drive sustainable success,” Mr van
“Applying the principles of good
agricultural practice—such as using better
planting materials and appropriate fertiliser—
smallholders can rehabilitate their crops and
triple their average yield within two to three
years. But for this to become a self-perpetuating
process, it also requires a deep understanding
of research-based farming practices and how to
run a commercially viable enterprise.”
A GLOBAL COCOA SHORTAGE?
In November 2014, news headlines announced
that the world could be facing a global cocoa
shortage as early as 2020. International
market prices for cocoa rose a staggering 25%
since 2013, representing significant economic
The increasing number of partnerships between
growers, buyers and researchers of cocoa is evidence
of a growing commitment to the development of a
sustainable cocoa industry.
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