Barry Callebaut Expands Cocoa Nurseries Program in Indonesia

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21 Mar 2017 --- One of Barry Callebaut’s primary goals in Forever Chocolate is to lift more than 500,000 farmers out of poverty. To get there, we can improve farm productivity and increase the yield of high-quality cocoa. Doing this will enable farmers to sell their cocoa at higher prices and gain access to a better quality of life.

But how can farmers grow more high-quality cocoa on the same amount of land? With better trees. Barry Callebaut aims to deliver 500,000 seedlings from its cocoa nurseries to farmers in Indonesia in 2017 and is in the midst of trialing a range of interventions to produce the best trees.

Click to EnlargeRichard Fahey, Barry Callebaut's Vice President for Cocoa in Asia says: “Indonesia has been struggling to increase cocoa production because of ageing cocoa trees. Most of them were planted in the 1980s, are vulnerable to diseases and are well past their peak production years. Cocoa trees are strong, and will produce pods for a long time. However, the high-productive years of a cocoa tree are finite, and usually after 25 years, the trees are less productive. Indonesia desperately needs new trees in order to get back to a productivity level of around 1 mt of beans per hectare.”

“Most Indonesian farmers are willing to invest in their farms, and they understand that new trees will be more productive.  But they simply have not had access to good planting materials and therefore prefer to stick with their old trees rather than risk planting new trees that may or may not be effective. High-quality nurseries are therefore are essential to provide the supply of seedlings the farmers need and give them the confidence that the seedlings they purchase will turn into high-yielding, disease resistant trees,” he notes. 

Click to EnlargeIndonesia-based Sustainability Manager Ani Setiyoningrum says: “The purpose of cocoa nurseries is to provide a conducive environment in which young cocoa plants can grow a good number of leaves and fully develop its root system to a certain stage that will give cocoa plants a better chance of survival at the cocoa farm. These nurseries will require shade, water and protection from wind, and whenever necessary, protection from stray animals.”

But there are already cocoa nurseries in Indonesia, but as Fahey notes, plantations in Indonesia typically have 400-600 cocoa trees growing per hectare. “Let’s do the math. If we are to estimate that there is 500,000 hectare of cocoa farms in Indonesia, we are basically looking at replacing at least 200 million trees. This nationwide replanting initiative is massive and would take a lot of effort not just from Barry Callebaut but across various organizations.”

Click to EnlargeSetiyoningrum says: “These are community-run nurseries that we help to kick-start by providing them with a start-up investment and best-practice models. These nurseries are also a form of income for these nurseries owners, some of whom are cocoa farmers themselves. Our field experts work closely with these nurseries owners to teach them to produce high quality seedlings with a high survival rate. They are given proper planting material, high-quality seeds, and the right potting mix, and are guided to develop good nursery management skills and standard operating procedures. These nursery owners then work as a professional service provider for other farmers which is becoming an avenue for additional income. The project model we are testing with around 50 nurseries across Sulawesi is suitable for nurseries producing at a large scale. Our intention is that the nurseries we start-up will eventually become totally self-sufficient businesses in their own right.”

Also in Indonesia, the company is piloting a new way of setting-up these nurseries and distributing these seedlings to the farmers. “The challenge is how we can escalate the seedling propagation program while also try to reduce the production cost of each seedling. We have learned a lot from our colleagues in Brazil and we are borrowing some of their best practices, including using elevated tables and space efficient planting tubes. While setting up these improved nurseries and distribution networks, we continue to support farmers to establish nurseries in their own communities because it helps to increase the overall supply of new trees,” Fahey concludes.

Barry Callebaut

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With annual sales of about CHF 6.7 billion (EUR 6.1 billion / USD 6.8 billion) in fiscal year 2015/16, the Zurich-based Barry Callebaut Group is the world’s leading manufacturer of high-quality chocolate and cocoa products – from sourcing and processing cocoa beans to producing the finest chocolates, including chocolate fillings, decorations and compounds. The Group runs more than 50 production facilities worldwide and employs a diverse and dedicated global workforce of close to 10,000 people. The Barry Callebaut Group serves the entire food industry, from industrial food manufacturers to artisanal and professional users of chocolate, such as chocolatiers, pastry chefs, bakers, hotels, restaurants or caterers. The two global brands catering to the specific needs of these Gourmet customers are Callebaut® and Cacao Barry®. The Barry Callebaut Group is committed to make sustainable chocolate the norm by 2025 to help ensure future supplies of cocoa and improve farmer livelihoods. It supports the Cocoa Horizons Foundation in its goal to shape a sustainable cocoa and chocolate future.

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