Cultivating change - the need for new cocoa trees
In 2017/18, Barry Callebaut distributed over 2.1 million cocoa seedlings globally! So why the focus on cocoa production in Brazil? Firstly, whilst Brazil has great potential to drive best practices in cocoa farming, the issue of ageing cocoa trees which typically produce lower yields and are more susceptible to pests and disease, first needs to be addressed. A further challenge, is that Brazil is also experiencing a structural bean shortage, which means that production of beans is lower than what the cocoa industry is grinding to feed the local demand. To fill this gap and enable a sustainable supply of cocoa, productivity must be improved.
Nurseries increasing the availability of quality cocoa seedlings
The Barry Callebaut Ilheus nursery main aim is to provide young seedlings to enable farmers to replace older trees. However, it is quality over quantity. The nursery focuses on developing cocoa seedlings that have a higher resistance to disease, more effective nutrient absorption and can produce a higher yield. The seedlings, which are among the most recognized productive varieties available on the market (so-called “CCN51” and “PS1319”), combined with good management with fertilizer and pruning, can produce a yield that can reach 1'500kg/ha.
...it is quality over quantity...producing high quality seedlings allows us to promote planting material to either replace old crops, or improve the density of existing farms
Producing high quality seedlings allows us to promote planting material to either replace old crops, or improve the density of existing farms. Additionally, replanting cocoa to increase the biodiversity of new areas, such as degraded pasture land, increases carbon sequestration, the long-term storage of carbon in plants, soils and contributes to our Thriving Nature pillar.
What else do our nurseries do?
Our field experts, including agronomists and agronomy technicians, are giving valuable support to farmers sharing best practices in the planting of the new seedlings, as well as techniques to manage the young plants during the first stage of development. Bertrand Remy, VP Cocoa, South America comments “The Illheus nursery is successfully driving our sustainability program in Brazil, not only helping to remedy the cocoa shortage we face, but through supporting farmers with seedling distribution and the knowledge and capacity to best care for the young plants to ensure healthy and productive farms."
The Illheus nursery is successfully driving our sustainability program in Brazil, not only helping to remedy the cocoa shortage we face, but through supporting farmers with seedling distribution and the knowledge and capacity to best care for the young plants to ensure healthy and productive farms.
Spreading the Impact
A network of eleven Barry Callebaut cocoa buying stations, cover an expansive area larger than the landmass of Europe, making it possible to offer farmers across the country not only necessary coaching and support, but the best price for seedlings. In addition to distributing seedlings, this network of cocoa buying stations allows for the distribution of fertilizer, as well as soil and leaf analysis. This is typically unheard of in areas that can be as far as 3000 km away from the nursery.
There is great opportunity for Brazil to drive the movement to make sustainable chocolate the norm, developing high-quality seedlings to increase cocoa productivity and sharing best in class practices worldwide. Barry Callebaut is committed to supporting cocoa farmers with quality inputs and cocoa varieties, helping to improve cocoa farmer livelihoods, as well as their environment through sustainable farming practices.