Mumbai: India plans to increase cocoa production by 60% in next four years to meet rising demand from the 15-billion-rupee chocolate industry and to cut dependency on costlier imports, industry officials said.
Chocolate consumption is gaining popularity in the country on increasing prosperity coupled with a shift in food habits, pushing up the country’s cocoa imports.
“Production will be around 10,000 tonnes in 2007/08. We are encouraging farmers for cocoa cultivation. We would produce 16,000 tonnes in 2011/12,” Venkatesh N. Hubballi, head of Directorate of Cashewnut & Cocoa Development, told Reuters.
Majority of Indian farmers cultivate cocoa as an intercrop in coconut and arecanut gardens. The total area under cultivation was 32,360 hectares in 2006/07.
India’s annual cocoa demand is pegged around 18,000 tonnes during the current year, which would necessitate import of around 45% of its total requirement, officials said.
In 2007/08, import of cocoa beans and cocoa products is estimated to jump four fold to 8,000 tonnes from 2,027 tonnes in 2000/2001. Industry players say there is huge scope for expanding acreage considering rising demand and firm global prices.
US cocoa futures hit a 24-year high on 14 February on fund buying. Soft commodity prices have seen waves of support from funds looking for fresh investment avenues, with agricultural commodities tipped as a good bet for 2008.
To secure good quality raw material in the long term, private players like Cadbury India are encouraging cocoa cultivation.
“Cadbury India’s Cocoa Department produces over 2.5 million hybrid seedlings annually and distributes it among farmers,” a company spokesperson informed in an e-mail.
Its parent company, Britain’s Cadbury Schweppes last month said it would invest 44 million pounds over 10 years in cocoa farms in Ghana, India, Indonesia and the Caribbean.
Duties and transportation cost make import of cocoa beans expensive. However, to fulfill demand, industry mainly imports cocoa butter and powder, said an senior official with the Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative, a major grinding agency in the country.
Cocoa grinder grinds cocoa beans, which is the basic ingredient to make chocolate.
“The climate in many southern and eastern states is favourable for the cultivation. We can bring 300,000 hectares under the crop,” Hubballi said. The department has set a target to bring 50,000 hectares under the crop by 2011/12.
“Cocoa requirement is growing around 15% annually and will reach about 30,000 tonnes in the next 5 years,” Cadbury India said.