Barry Callebaut assists cocoa farmers in Indonesia
Swiss chocolate manufacturer Barry Callebaut has confirmed plans to deliver 500,000 seedlings from its cocoa nurseries to support farmers in Indonesia.
The company recently announced an ambitious strategy to help low-paid workers within the industry within Africa and other areas of the world.
One of its key aims is to enable 500,000 farmers to be lifted out of poverty, with the half a million seedlings helping improve cocoa standards.
Barry Callebaut’s Richard Fahey, Vice President for Cocoa in Asia, and Indonesia-based Sustainability Manager Ani Setiyoningrum, answer questions about our innovative seedling program in Indonesia.
Why do cocoa farmers need new trees?
Richard Fahey: 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.
Why are cocoa nurseries important for our farmers in Indonesia?
Richard: 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.
Ani Setiyoningrum: 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.
There are already cocoa nurseries in Indonesia? Why are we also doing this?
Richard: 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.
How are our cocoa nurseries different from others?
Ani: 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.