Smallholder cocoa farmers in Indonesia face problems despite booming trade
- POSTED: 03 Jan 2014 12:56
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Indonesia is the world's third-largest cocoa producer and its goal is to become number one in the near future.
SOUTH SULAWESI: Indonesia is the world's third-largest cocoa producer and its goal is to become number one in the near future.
However the situation on the ground is not all that encouraging.
In the province of South Sulawesi - a key cocoa producing area - its smallholder cocoa farmers are facing a myriad of problems that could put a damper on Indonesia's goal of becoming a number-one cocoa producer.
41-year-old Suwardi has been a cocoa producer for almost 30 years. Back in the 80s, he was able to produce up to one and a half tons per hectare but now, he is only able to produce a third of that.
He said: "As cocoa producers, we can grow around 500kg a hectare. That's an average amount. With an annual yield of only 500kg of cocoa, it's not enough to meet our expenses throughout the year."
At US$2 a kilo, Suwardi earns a little over a thousand US dollars a year.
That is not enough to get by, so he takes on odd jobs to make ends meet.
Despite global demand for cocoa being at an all-time high, the nation's hub for cocoa production has not been able to keep up with demand.
In 2008, the government launched a nationwide programme called Gernas Pro Kakao.
Its aim is to revitalise, rehabilitate and intensify smallholder cocoa farming.
But a limited budget allocation from the central government has hampered productivity.
Farmers also have to cope with soil fertility conditions and pest infestations.
Demand for chocolate products in Asia has doubled, but as demand grows Indonesia's production of cocoa has declined, mostly due to pests, crop diseases and aging cocoa trees with reduced productivity.
Common pests include cocoa pod borers.
Since 2002 an increasing number of cocoa plants suffer from black pod rots and a Malaysian strain of the Vascular Streak Dieback (VSD).
Makassar's University of Hassanuddin has developed microorganisms to help control cocoa diseases like VSD and steps are underway to mass-produce it.
Ade Rosmana, agriculture researcher at Hassanuddin University, said: "Farmers now have a tendency to use microorganisms that can penetrate the plant. It's better to protect cocoa from within in order to guard against black pod rots and VSD. So we're focusing our research to creating cocoa plants' natural enemies at a large scale."
To boost cocoa production in South Sulawesi and ensure farming is sustainable, an initiative called The Cocoa Sustainability Partnership has been put in place.
It paves the way for continued close collaboration among local government officials, companies, civil society and academics.
Rini Indrayanti, general secretary of Cocoa Sustainability Initiative, said: "We're currently in the process of developing a road map for sustainable cocoa initiatives until 2020 so we're just started the consultation process this month and we're hoping that the road map can be produced and available at the end of December. By this road map we hope that we know how to speed up the process of all the sustainability activities being implemented by our members."
The goal is to increase annual cocoa production by 1.5 metric tons per hectare and attract 500,000 youths to become cocoa farmers.