Agri Business

Cadbury chocolate maker puts India on global cocoa map through its Cocoa Life Programme

Subramani Ra Mancombu Chennai | Updated on April 01, 2021

The programme helps harvest 19,000-20,000 tonnes of cocoa and meet one-third of Mondelez India’s annual demand for the basic raw material

Radha, a cocoa farmer at a tribal settlement in Kerala, needs to prune the branches of the trees on her farm at least twice a year to allow sunlight to filter through to the branches and the trunk.

Usually, the first pruning is done after the main April-July harvest season and the second during November-December.

Radha, who grows cocoa on one acre of land, is helped in this task by a group of youth trained in pruning.

The youth, 10-15 in number, carry out these pruning operations from one farm to another, thanks to the training they got under the Cocoa Life programme run by Mondelez India Foods Pvt Ltd, the maker of India’s famous range of Cadbury chocolates.

“Pruning of the cocoa trees needs skills. These youth are trained to do this through a service model developed as part of Cocoa Life,” says Roopak Bhat, Cocoa Operations Lead - India, Mondelez International.

For that matter, Radha herself is among those who took up full-time work of cocoa seedlings production and farming as part of the Cocoa Life Programme (CLP) four years ago.

Newer areas

Radha took up the programme to secure a stable income for her family that includes two daughters. The young tribal woman is among the 15,000-16,000 women of the total one lakh farmers engaged in cocoa cultivation under the CLP.

“Cadbury introduced cocoa farming in India in the 1960s in Kerala and Karnataka. The cultivation was promoted through government and local agencies. The project was then extended to the coastal areas and in the 1990s, it moved into new areas in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh,” said Bhat.

The objective of CLP, earlier called the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership Programme, was to cut the chocolate maker’s dependence on imports. Today, the programme helps harvest 19,000-20,000 tonnes of cocoa and meet one-third of Mondelez India’s annual demand for the basic raw material.

And Mondelez remains to be the single largest corporate organisation to nurture and promote cocoa cultivation in India.

“During the last 10-15 years, we have sustained the activities in cocoa cultivation working with cocoa farmers. The growers have taken up cocoa on a long-term basis,” said Bhat.

Mondelez has launched a community initiative in cocoa cultivation that would also help improve the income of women.

“Globally, CLP has been taken up in countries such as Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia with both men and women. We also encourage youth to take up cocoa-related business, while empowering them and women,” said the Mondelez Cocoa Operations Lead.

Inter-crop method

India is unique in Mondelez’s cocoa cultivation programme. Its objective is to put India as a key player in the global cocoa map.

“A unique feature here is that cocoa is grown as an inter-crop in coconut, oil palm and areca plantations that helps double growers’ income,” Bhat said.

It also increases the per hectare productivity. At least 1,000 cocoa trees can be planted on a hectare — something that is done globally.

Since cocoa is grown as an inter-crop, only 400 or 500 trees are planted on a hectare. But the yield, according to the Mondelez official, is higher compared with other countries.

“Against the average yield of 1-1.5 kg per tree, productivity is 2-2.5 kg in Andhra Pradesh,” he said.

The average productivity in the country is twice than that of global yield.

Mondelez’s major focus is to work with agriculture and horticulture departments as part of CLP. At the same time, some States are also working with it to help farmers.

For example, the Andhra Pradesh government is providing subsidies for cocoa seedlings. The Cadbury chocolate manufacturer has established nurseries for the seedlings and has 50 technical staff to connect with the farmers.

“These staff also conduct technical programmes and are behind the success in increasing the area under cocoa,” Bhat said.

Research tie-ups

Besides, Mondelez India has struck partnership with research institutions. In particular, the Kerala Agricultural University is helping with agricultural practices, post-harvest technologies and hybrids. The Tamil Nadu Agricultural University and Central Plantations Crop Research Institute at Kasaragod in Kerala are also providing valuable inputs.

Hybrids developed and released by the agricultural universities are promoted among the farmers and these have provided significant impetus to the cocoa delivery programme.

Institutes such as Kerala Agricultural University come up with standard operating procedure which the company’s technical team takes to farmers as part of their “lab to land” process.

“We also conduct other activities for women farmers. We have invested in schools, infrastructure to encourage the taking up of cocoa farming,” the Mondelez official said, adding that they were also being educated on gender health.

Particularly in Kerala, Mondelez has begun training programme for tribals to take up cocoa farming with 90 hectares being brought under cultivation of the nut.

The cocoa tree begins yield from the third year onwards and such activities have helped bring additional acreage under the crop over the last 10 years.

For the work that the cocoa growers put in, they are paid prices at par with the rates in the global market. Currently, cocoa is quoted at $2,347 a tonne (₹172 a kg) on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

“It also ensures that they don’t switch over to other competing crops,” Bhat said.

The CLP also educates farmers on multiple cropping that has brought in a big change among the farmers. It also ensures that farmers have a cash flow throughout the year.

Mondelez India, whose Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate commands over 40 per cent market share in the country, also hopes to meet the increasing demand for raw material through local sourcing.

The chocolate category’s compound annual growth rate has been 11.7 per cent over the last couple of years and the company is now exploring the potential for new cocoa growing regions in the north-eastern belt and Maharashtra.

Published on March 31, 2021

Follow us on Telegram, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Linkedin. You can also download our Android App or IOS App.

  1. Comments will be moderated by The Hindu Business Line editorial team.
  2. Comments that are abusive, personal, incendiary or irrelevant cannot be published.
  3. Please write complete sentences. Do not type comments in all capital letters, or in all lower case letters, or using abbreviated text. (example: u cannot substitute for you, d is not 'the', n is not 'and').
  4. We may remove hyperlinks within comments.
  5. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name, to avoid rejection.