|In 2006, Viet Nam issued national quality standards for cocoa beans in order to standardise the product towards meeting regional and world standards.— Illustrative image
by Xuan Huong
HCM CITY (VNS)— ASEAN members should strengthen co-operation and take priority measures to ensure the region remains a primary source of cocoa in the world.
Kelvin Lamin of the Malaysian Cocoa Board made the statement yesterday while speaking at the 16th meeting of the ASEAN Cocoa Club organised by the Viet Nam Cocoa Committee in HCM City.
The meeting dealt with ASEAN co-operation and joint approaches in agriculture as well as a forestry products promotion scheme.
Lamin, who is the Malaysian board's deputy director general and chaired the meeting, said ASEAN has become one of the world's foremost supplier of several major food and agriculture commodities including cocoa.
"It is a fact that ASEAN now has become an important source of not only cocoa beans but also semi-processed cocoa products such as cocoa liquor, cocoa butter, cocoa cake and cocoa powder for chocolate manufactures and confectioneries in different markets in the world," he said.
"This shows that ASEAN cocoa marketing has changed from beans-dominated to value-added products," he added.
As a whole, ASEAN members are the third largest producer of cocoa beans in the world and the largest in the Asia and Oceania region, producing an estimated 495,400 tonnes of cocoa, accounting for about 12.4 per cent of the total world cocoa production at the moment.
The regional bloc is also the largest cocoa processor in Asia and Oceania region, contributing about 75.3 per cent of the total cocoa grinding in this region and about 16.8 per cent of the total world cocoa grinding in the 2012-13 season.
"No doubt, the cocoa industry in ASEAN is progressing very well, but we still need to address and take priority measures to further develop and sustain it," he said.
There are still vast areas of co-operation that should be planned and undertaken by the ACC to meet ever-changing global market that is increasingly become very competitive, Lamin said.
Dr Phan Huy Thong, chairman of the Viet Nam Cocoa Committee and director general of the National Agriculture Extension Center, said that although cocoa trees were introduced to Viet Nam many centuries ago, cocoa plantations did not prosper until 1996.
The country had about 25,700ha under cocoa cultivation, yielding about 5,000 tonnes last year, he said.
The plant was cultivated mostly in the Central Highlands, the southeastern and Mekong Delta provinces, mostly under the shade of other crops, including coconut palms and cashew trees, he said.
Thong said "Viet Nam's cocoa beans are of good quality, comparable with international standards.
"In 2006, Viet Nam issued national quality standards for cocoa beans in order to standardise the product towards meeting regional and world standards."
He also mentioned challenges faced by the Viet Nam cocoa industry, including small-scale production, poor sources of seedlings, lack of qualified technical staff, unstable market compared to other products, low productivity and weak linkages in the cocoa value chain.
Viet Nam plans sustainable development of its cocoa industry, expanding cultivation in suitable areas, Thong said.
It will apply VietGAP standards to increase yield and quality, boost farmer incomes and ensure food safety for cocoa products, he added.
Under a cocoa development plan through 2015 with a vision to 2020 approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development recently, Viet Nam targets to have 35,000ha under cocoa cultivation producing 26,000 tonnes of the beans by 2015. — VNS