A looming chocolate scarcity? The cocoa story

Badly-infected cocoa pods in Sulawesi. Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Badly-infected cocoa pods in Sulawesi. Photo by Enggar Paramita/ICRAF

Chocolate aficionados may have cause to worry, as some farmers in Sulawesi, the largest cocoa bean-producing island in Indonesia, are thinking of abandoning cocoa farming to grow other commodities.

Indonesia is the third-largest producer of cocoa in the world, behind Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Sulawesi, the K-shaped island located in the eastern part of the country, is responsible for 67% of Indonesia’s cocoa production. Around 2.2 million smallholder farmers in Sulawesi grow cocoa on 1.5 million hectares, supplying most of the national production.

In recent years, farmers in Sulawesi have faced many problematic issues, and they are losing the appetite for cocoa cultivation.

A study presented at the World Congress on Agroforestry by Janudianto from the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) said the key problems in Sulawesi are high rates of pest and disease attack, limited access to high-quality germplasm, and poor farm management.

“These factors have lowered production, causing farmers to start replacing cocoa with fruit trees, pepper, rubber or oil palm,” said Janudianto.

To address the issues, the researcher conducted field observation and garden inventories in South and Southeast Sulawesi aiming to identify the types of smallholder cocoa agroforestry systems that farmers practice.

“We gathered information from the field, identifying the systems to recognize range of productivity, agro-biodiversity and economic profitability associated with smallholder systems,” Janudianto told the congress. “We need to get as much information as possible before settling on interventions,” he added.

The finding revealed 4 classifications of cocoa agroforestry systems that exist in South and Southeast Sulawesi: monocultures; cocoa integrated with shade trees; cocoa integrated with fruit and timber; and home gardens. Cocoa is the main commodity in all systems, with the exception of home gardens, where fruits and timber trees dominated.

According to Janudianto, identifying the system is only the initial step to addressing the cocoa issue in Sulawesi. Many other parties, such as the government of Indonesia, Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute and the private sectors are also working on this question.

“At the end of the day, we intend to formulate a set of simple yet applicable technologies that is able to improve each type of cocoa agroforestry system,” outlined Janudianto.

In another study presented at the Congress, Christian Andres from Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland conducted a field trial in Sara Ana, Bolivia. The objective was to compare cocoa production between high-input monoculture and low-input agroforestry. In the process, six systems of monocultures or agroforestry with conventional or organic management, and a fallow, were examined.

Preliminary results match the expectation that yields are higher in the monocultures. But the monocultures also had higher disease incidences than the agroforestry systems. In the agroforestry systems, there was a multitude of products beside cocoa that could be harvested, such as cassava, pineapple, maze and rice.

“The question on how well these products can compensate cocoa yield reduction—particularly in the first years when cocoa production lower—is yet to be answered,” said Andres.

By Enggar Paramita

Related story:

Future of Chocolate in Danger! – by Christian Andres

See more on Cocoa improvement

Follow the Congress on Twitter #WCA2014 for live updates!


Vigyan Bhavan & Kempinski Ambience

10 - 14 February 2014 Delhi, India
organised by


Post your comments on our social media pages