The country's growing cocoa industry has already caught the attention of manufacturers such as Cargill, which wants to buy 20,000 tonnes of the product from Vietnam every year, the news agency said. At a conference held by the Agriculture Ministry's Planting department, minister Nguyen Van Hoa said that he intends to expand the cocoa planting area to 80,000 hectares by 2020 to provide another 108,000 tonnes of cocoa. Vietnam first decided to grow cocoa as a commercial crop soon after the coffee price cash in the 1990s, which caused the farming industry to fall into financial chaos. Confectionery manufacturers such as Mars have supported the project over the last decade, fearing over reliance on the African cocoa nations, such as the Ivory Coast, where political unrest is common. Other companies interested in the country include Barry Callebaut, which this week announced it will use Vietnamese cocoa beans for their single origins chocolate range. The US government has also lent a helping hand, and in 2005 it sponsored a programme known as Success Alliance, encouraging companies such as Cargill to teach Vietnamese farmers to grow cocoa. The country's crop is unlikely to pose a threat to the two African giants - Ivory Coast and Ghana - as together they provide about 65 per cent of all the world's cocoa. Most of the cocoa cultivated in Africa is exported to the major centres of cocoa consumption in Europe and North America, with the Netherlands and the US maintaining their positions as the world's two leading cocoa processing countries, according to the International Cocoa Organisation (ICCO). By contrast, the Asia and Oceania region's share of global production has declined over the past year, to 16 per cent from 17 per cent, while the Americas' contribution has fallen to 13 per cent from 19 per cent, the ICCO said.
The Vietnamese government estimates its overall cocoa crop will reach 45,000 tonnes by 2015, aiming to make the catch the attention of chocolate manufacturers around the world, according to Reuters.