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Cargill upbeat about future Vietnamese cocoa output

By Jane Byrne , 12-Apr-2010

A new cocoa buying station in Vietnam will support an ongoing programme of cocoa farming expertise transfer and shows the high expectations Cargill has for cocoa development in the country, said the industry chocolate supplier.

Harold Poelma, managing director at Cargill Cocoa & Chocolate told ConfectioneryNews.com that the company’s new buying station in Binh Phuoc, its third in the country, demonstrates the growth taking place in Vietnam regarding its cocoa crop and Cargill’s commitment to this.

“Although overall output is still quite small, approximately 2,000 tonnes per year, we have now set the base for expansion. Cargill’s ultimate aim is to provide our global and regional customers with high quality cocoa and chocolate products, made from Vietnamese cocoa.” he added.

Crop potential

The world cocoa crop is around 3.5 million tonnes - 70 per cent of which comes from West Africa and close to 20 per cent from Asia.

“Vietnam is not a traditional cocoa producing country, but five years ago we started a project together with Mars, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, to revitalise the cocoa industry in Vietnam – knowing that Vietnam has the potential to grow a good crop,” explained Poelma.

He said that climate and soil conditions for cocoa growing in Vietnam are good and that since the start of the project Cargill has been steadily been investing in farmer training and presence on the ground, which has involved 12,000 farmers since 2005.

Poelma said that the bean quality compares well to that produced in West Africa and he added that the company considers the Vietnamese government’s target of 100,000 tonnes of cocoa output by 2020 to be very realistic but he did stress that it will remain only a small part of the total world crop.

“We believe the biggest growth in supply during the coming decades will need to come from the traditional cocoa growing countries in West Africa,” he continued.

Market access

According to Poelma, the Binh Phuoc buying station will also provide farmers with better market access for their crop as they will have less distance to travel to sell their cocoa. In addition to the new Vietnam station, he said Cargill opened its fourth up country buying station in Oume in the Ivory Coast last month.

“A presence on the ground, close to the crop, is a key part of the Cargill way of doing things – in the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Indonesia and also in Vietnam,” he said.

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