Protecting cocoa's biodiversity and sustainability are critical, said Mars at the recent United Nations Biodiversity conference held in Bonn, Germany.
Philippe Metzger, general manager of Mars Snackfood Germany said: "We invest significant resources to help support the sustainability of the cocoa supply chain - partly because it is linked to our own business success, but also because it is critical to protecting this unique and fragile crop for future generations."
Mars has formed partnerships with federal and local governments, local communities and non governmental organisations (NGOs) around the world to develop and teach the best methods for cocoa production, investigate pest and disease control and improve the quality of cocoa.
Research at Mars Centre for Cocoa Science in Brazil is helping to identify disease-resistant strains of cocoa that have the potential to make cocoa farming more sustainable around the world, said the company.
Mars is also supporting cocoa farmers by breeding cocoa trees that are more drought resistant and use water and soil nutrients more efficiently. Ensuring responsible production that enables the communities and ecosystems where cocoa is grown to thrive is part of Mars' vision for sustainable cocoa, said the company.
Several major companies have launched sustainability programmes to safeguard the future of this key crop. In January this year, Cadbury launched a fund to aid its cocoa suppliers in Ghana after research suggested that average production in the region is 40 per cent below yield potential.
Western confectioners, under pressure from high commodity costs, want to ensure a consistent supply to protect their businesses.
Good Inside Cocoa Programme
Mars and Nestlé joined a sustainable cocoa programme earlier this year which aims to establish a traceability system for Ivory Coast farmers. The Good Inside Cocoa Programme, established by the Dutch organisation Utz Certified, aims to eliminate environmental and humanitarian problems.
Project Manager Daan de Vries told ConfectioneryNews.com that as well as addressing concerns such as child labour, the programme "will consider issues such as market supply, health and safety - all the factors necessary for cocoa trading".
The International Cocoa Organisation has established a working group to plan ahead for the next Roundtable on a Sustainable Cocoa Economy meeting. The first Roundtable meeting took place in Accra, Ghana, last year, bringing together over 200 participants from 25 countries including representatives from European confectionery firms.