Cargill is represented in the country through a joint venture with Telcar, and, through this partnership, is the largest exporter of cocoa beans from that country.
The International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) puts output of cocoa in Cameroon in 2010/11 as 215,000 tonnes.
The cocoa processor that it will run the farmer training scheme in Cameroon in conjunction with Telcar. Cargill claims it can leverage its extensive network and presence on the ground in Cameroon, including rural buying stations and warehouse facilities in regard to rolling out the programme.
The World Cocoa Foundation and Socodevi, a Canada-based network of cooperative businesses that supports farmers organisations’ initiatives in the developing world, are also partners in the initiative, the aim of which is to achieve UTZ certification for cooperatives in Cameroon by 2012.
Increase in yields
Harold Poelma managing director of the Cargill division, commented: “After the first year of UTZ certification, our pilot cooperatives in the Ivory Coast have seen on average a 47 per cent increase in yields, rising from 559 to 882 kilograms per hectare.
“As a result of the adoption of good agricultural practices around pruning and weeding, there also has been, on average, a 30 per cent reduction in major pests along with major improvement in the fermentation level of the beans and a decrease in humidity, due to improved drying and storage after harvest.
These results convince us that we are following the right strategy in the Ivory Coast, and we will now adopt this successful policy in other cocoa growing countries where we feel we can make a real difference.”
UTZ Certification premium
Asked whether these projects result in a tangible increase in farmers’ incomes, Poelma told ConfectioneryNews.com that in the Ivory Coast:
“Better quality, and compliance with UTZ Certified standards, has been rewarded with an UTZ Certification premium, which last year amounted to a payment of over US$400,000 divided between around 1,600 farmers in two co-operatives.
The figures for the latest period, which are due in the next few weeks, are expected to be even higher. We believe training farmers to increase yields, improve quality and adopt more sustainable practices can directly contribute to increased earnings for cocoa farmers.”
The overall aim of the programme, continued Poelma, is to enable farmers to become more professional.
He added that the certification scheme also includes planting strategies as well as pruning, weeding and cocoa fermentation techniques.
Moreover, a vital part of the programme, said Poelma, is the strengthening of farmers’ organisations, and depending on their needs the projects provides access to cocoa plant seedlings, fertilisers and other expertise.
UTZ certification is becoming increasingly recognised by industry and consumers as well as in the cocoa growing countries themselves, claims Cargill.
Daan de Vries, programme manager for cocoa at UTZ Certified, told this publication recently that UTZ scheme is a relatively “young one”, with the first certification issued in 2009 for a cooperative in the Ivory Coast but “it has huge potential.”
“Current certified production is 81,000 tonnes, with 55 certified projects in 11 producer countries in Latin America, Asia, and West Africa contributing to this output,” said de Vries.
He added that the scheme has grown exponentially, with registered UTZ certified cocoa output at 5,500 tonnes in 2009.