Sustainable Cocoa Program (SCP):
One primary need of this industry is to have an adequate supply of cocoa beans of consistent high quality. To this end, ACRI supports scientific research on cocoa and chocolate in key areas such as cocoa production, integrated pest management, disease control, cacao germplasm conservation and improvement, and biotechnology.
The vision of the Sustainable Cocoa Program (SCP) is to have a sustainable and geographically diverse supply of cocoa within 10 years, with emphasis on economic, social and environmental improvements.
Strategy and Rationale
The SCP aims to develop a comprehensive, integrated approach to cocoa research in order to achieve a sustainable cocoa supply. To do this, the worldwide chocolate industry must work together in partnership to identify, develop, implement, and seek funding of both regional and global programs and projects aligned with the SCP vision. Potential partners identified by the US industry include, among others, the Smithsonian Institute, Ford Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the United Nations’ Development Program (UNDP).
Recently, the first international conference on “Sustainable Cocoa Growing” was held in Panama by the Smithsonian Institution. Supported by Mars, one of ACRI’s member companies, this conference brought together for the first time key scientists conducting research on cocoa sustainability. A major outcome of this conference was a Consensus Statement that supported and validated the importance of cacao in a sustainable ecological system. Another outcome of this conference was to define key research areas and priorities. These documents are available on the Smithsonian Institute’s worldwide web page (www.si.edu/smbc). A White Paper on Sustainable Cocoa Growing will also be drafted by the Smithsonian as follow-up to the conference.
Sustainable Cocoa Program Areas
There are five basic program areas envisioned in the SCP, all of which link together to form an integrated approach to sustainable cocoa growing. The overarching priority under which these 5 program areas are united is that of Management & Partnerships.
The Scientific Committee has the task of improving technical knowledge in scientific areas related to cocoa, including biotechnology, cacao agronomic research, cocoa processing, health, nutrition, and safety.
1998 saw the successful culmination of an important new research method that will allow the multiplication of large numbers of cocoa plants from cultured cocoa flowers. The Penn State research team, under the leadership of Dr. Mark Guiltinan, published this method in a prominent scientific publication in 1998; a patent application was also filed. Currently, field trials of cacao plants grown by this method are being conducted in St. Lucia in co-operation with their Ministry of Agriculture. A strategic biotechnology planning session was held between ACRI and invited biotechnology experts in December 1998; a set of research priorities for additional basic and applied research needed by the industry was prepared for the future. A need to establish a global forum for cacao biotechnology and to work in partnership was voiced.
Cocoa Development in Vietnam
This project, initiated by ACRI in 1997, saw considerable progress over the last year. The Vietnamese government has set as a goal the development of a sustainable and ecological agriculture system for the 21st century, and has already implemented a production and distribution infrastructure for coffee. Cocoa is seen to fit well with this program of inter-cropping with fruit trees and shade canopy. Recently, the Vietnamese government has set an ambitious National Cocoa Plan to achieve 100,000 hectares (ha) in 3 regions and 8 provinces to produce an annual yield > 1500 kg/ha by the year 2010. ACRI continues to provide technical assistance to this program, and has hired a local cacao expert to teach the Vietnamese farmer the basics of cacao growing. A funding partner is being sought for full implementation of the program.
Sustainable Land Management of Cacao Farms in Cote d’Ivoire
This project was developed by the Rural Development Department of the World Bank in collaboration with ACRI. The objective is to improve yield and quality of cocoa production through the use of sustainable land management practices and IPM, with focus on ecologically sound production. It consists of three parts: on-farm research, implementation of 5 research activities at selected research stations, and organization of Farmers’ Field Days. With the liberalization of the cocoa marketing system in Cote d’Ivoire starting October 1999, this project will be important to help maintain quality and build research and extension services capacity.
Cacao Rehabilitation in Peru
In 1998 ACRI supported a National Cocoa Conference in Lima, Peru in collaboration with USAID and the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture. Its outcome was very successful and resulted in development of a National Cocoa Plan for Peru. USAID continues to aggressively support cocoa rehabilitation, production, and marketing by expanding the Winrock International project to include an additional 1000 ha of cocoa. Further technical assistance by ACRI is planned for 1999.
Cacao Biocontrol Research
The American Cocoa Research Institute (ACRI) is a non-profit 501(c)6 organization that was founded in 1947. It is the research arm of the Chocolate Manufacturers Association of America (CMA) and is devoted to research in all scientific areas related to cocoa and chocolate.
Cacao diseases are responsible for enormous losses of otherwise viable cocoa beans. For example, Witches’ Broom, a fungal disease, has wiped out 50% of Brazil’s cocoa crop over the last decade. The threat of monilia, which is far more robust and therefore can spread more easily, looms in the future. The use of broad-based chemicals to fight cacao diseases is unsatisfactory for many reasons and so great efforts are being made to find biological control agents that are present in nature. Under the leadership of the USDA (Dr. Prakish Hebbar), ACRI is developing a major international biocontrol program aimed at controlling the major cacao diseases. With the recent funding allocated by the US Congress under the Western Hemisphere Drug Act to develop alternative crops to coca, the USDA and others are actively developing a significant program on cocoa in Latin America.
On a related front, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) has embarked on a new research program, co-funded by ACRI, to investigate the disease-fighting aspects of the endophytes (fungi) found naturally in cocoa trees. Some encouraging findings are being reported.
The American Cocoa Research Institute (ACRI) is a non-profit organization founded in 1947 as the research arm of the Chocolate Manufacturers’ Association of America (CMA) whose members represent the US chocolate industry.