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Brief Published: 18 Jun 2013

Mars Boosts Cocoa Farming


US food manufacturer Mars has pledged to invest $30m a year over the next decade to help cocoa farmers increase their crop yields in a bid to secure future chocolate supplies.

The company says that an additional 1.1 million tons of cocoa will be needed to meet global chocolate demand by 2020, thanks to increasing requirements from emerging markets. This presents an enormous challenge for cocoa farmers, who are already struggling to meet current quotas.

West Africa currently satisfies 70% of the global demand for cocoa beans, but farmers in this region – particularly the Ivory Coast, which is the world’s largest cocoa producer – are becoming frustrated with the bean’s low return. They are turning to more lucrative crops such as rubber instead, or abandoning their smallholdings altogether.

A switch toward rubber production in these regions could ultimately leave Western chocolate makers with insufficient cocoa supplies and drive commodity prices upward. Inflated retail prices would increase the luxury positioning of chocolate, and could lead to poor ingredient substitutions as chocolatiers look to keep costs down.

In an effort to address this issue, Howard-Yana Shapiro, chief agricultural officer at Mars, says that the company can inflate cocoa yield from 450 kilograms to 1500-2500 kilograms a hectare, by establishing educational centres where farmers can learn to wield superior planting materials and rehabilitate defunct cocoa gardens. 

The Mars’ initiative follows similar ventures from competitors such as Swiss multinational Nestlé and US food conglomerate Mondelēz International, which has committed to spending $400m on its cocoa projects over the next 10 years.

Read more about developments in the global chocolate industry in Chocolate Innovation: Breaking the Mould.