Mars Chocolate is launching comprehensive cocoa sustainability initiatives to help cocoa farmers meet the growing need for cocoa.According to the company’s estimates, demand for cocoa has grown at a rate of 3% annually for the past century. Projections for 2020 peg total demand at greater than 4. 5 million metric tons. Unfortunately, cocoa yields have remained flat for some time now. Recent production stands at 3.5 million metric tons.Should cocoa production continue to lag while demand grows, there will be a 1-million metric ton deficit shortfall in nine years. To address this potential deficit, the company has pledged to invest “tens of millions” of dollars with a three-pronged program that looks to affect 250,000 farmers in Africa and Asia. Stressing that the effort will operate under a “farmer’s first” principle, Andy Harner, Mars Chocolate’s global cocoa director, says the strategy will focus on increasing productivity through technology transfer as well as taking advantage of the latest innovations involving agricultural science. “We know how to increase yield, we can triple the yield of a crop through technology transfer,” he says. By educating farmers on best agricultural practices involving pruning and grafting as well as making available hardier cocoa trees and fertilizer, farmers can steadily bolster total output as well as improve their livelihoods. Recent farm rehabilitation efforts in Indonesia have seen farmer income jump to $3,500 in annual profit from $700. Mars has committed to expanding its current number of Cocoa Development Centers (CDC’s) from seven (two in Cote d’Ivoire and five in Indonesia) to 100 (75 in Cote d’Ivoire and 25 in Indonesia). The CDC’s form the hub in a “spoke and hub” method aimed at distributing higher quality, more disease-resistant trees for planting. The CDC hub will supply a network of Village Cocoa Centers(VCC) , privately owned nurseries that distribute planting material to communities too distant from the CDC. As a result, through this spoke and hub method, Mars looks to Reach 250,000 farmers (150,000 in Cote d’Ivoire and 100,000 in Indonesia). “If you look at the cocoa sector, there’s been a long history of good intentions,” Harner says. “Unfortunately, most of it has been on a small scale.” As he points out, 5 to 6 million individual farmers are producing cocoa on small acreages. “It’s a supply side issue,” Harner continues. “The goal is to meet current and future processing needs in a way that’s also good for the farmer and their communities.” By taking advantage of the learnings gleaned from years of research at its Center for Cocoa Science based in Brazil as well as the completion of the cocoa genome sequencing and annotating project (a cooperative effort between Mars, IBM and the USDA), Mars believes its has the tools to have a significant impact in addressing scale and sustainability issues. Moreover, given the initiative’s long-term focus, Harner says the program tackles another problem, next-generation farmers.Noting that many young people have left the farms to go to larger cities for what they view as more lucrative opportunities, enhancing farmer incomes and communities would go a long way in promoting cocoa farming as a good career choice. The Mars cocoa sustainability initiative also embraces certification as a means to transfer technology to boost farmer income and preserve the environment. The company has pledged to use only 100% certified sustainable cocoa by 2020.Current certification programs include the Rainforest Alliance and UTZ Certified “Good Inside.” Presently, certified cocoa purchases account for about 10% of all cocoa used by Mars. The company says it is “open to working with any certifying organization” that meets its rigorous standards.
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