Focus on Improving Quality Of Cocoa, Group Says
The Indonesian Cacao Association has urged the government to intensify efforts to revitalize the cocoa sector, with a focus on improving bean quality as well as production volume, as inferior Indonesian beans sell at a steep discount on international markets.
Zulhefi Sikumbang, general secretary of the association, also known as Askindo, on Monday said Indonesian cocoa beans had been selling for as much as 26 percent below the average international price this year.
“The government should provide consultants to help farmers improve the quality of their beans,” Zulhefi said.
Cocoa bean futures on New York’s ICE Futures exchange have rallied from $2,200 to $3,400 per ton this year. However, Indonesian cocoa farmers have not enjoyed the rally as much as their counterparts in other countries because domestically produced beans are generally smaller, lower in fat and higher in contaminants — all of which are unattractive qualities to international buyers.
Cocoa exports to the US, for example, have been subject to “automatic detention,” meaning they are held in quarantine while their quality is examined — and are automatically sold at lower prices — as much as $200 a ton.
Buyers also demand additional discounts because of bean size and quality.
Indonesia is the world’s third-largest producer of cocoa, behind Ivory Coast and Ghana. Exports this year are expected to total $1.4 billion, according to Askindo.
However, national production has declined in recent years due to disease and aging trees. It totaled 520,000 tons in 2007, and slipped to 500,000 tons last year. Output is expected to total 480,000 tons this year.
In an effort to boost production, the government launched a cocoa revitalization program this year in nine provinces. It will be expanded to 15 provinces next year.
The program so far has been focused on improving seed quality and production volume. The Ministry of Agriculture has said it hopes to triple output to 1.5 tons of dried cocoa bean per hectare by 2011.
However, Zulhefi said more effort should be made to help farmers improve their cultivation techniques with the goal of raising the quality of their beans. More consultants are needed, he said, to teach farmers how to do so.
“Without continuous assistance from consultants, cocoa farmers tend to let their plantations grow without the proper treatment,” he said. “This leads to many diseases that damage the quality of the beans.”