Regions of developing interest
Devastation of cocoa in many regions from pests, disease and adverse climatic conditions over recent decades has dramatically narrowed the global geographic base of cocoa production. Currently, about 70% of the world's cocoa is grown in Western Africa. Wild and primitive types of cocoa germplasm are also at risk from deforestation. Many countries who wish to conserve their wild species of cocoa or aspire to re-establish cocoa production are without the financial and technical resources to do so. However, industry associations such as the American Cocoa Research Institute (ACRI) and the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Alliance (BCCCA), UK are investing in research to help countries such as Vietnam, Peru and Guyana make the most of their cocoa germplasm and production.
An ambitious plan has been set in motion by the Vietnamese government to produce an annual yield of over 1500kg/ha of cocoa by the year 2010. Over 100,000 hectares is to be planted to cocoa in 3 regions and 8 provinces throughout the country. Vietnam has already established a successful infrastructure for coffee and cocoa is seen to fit in well with existing intercropping with fruit trees and shade canopy. ACRI has, and will continue to provide technical expertise to Vietnamese farmers in growing cocoa although further funding is being sought to put the program into full effect. The Vietnamese government intends that cocoa production will be just one part of its development of sustainable agriculture for the 21st century.
Further technical assistance is to be provided by ACRI to Peru as it continues to re-habilitate its cocoa production. A National Cocoa Plan has been put into affect and is strongly supported by USAID. Scientists from CABI, CATIE and national research institutes in Peru are working together to work towards better disease control so that some of the 16,000 ha of abandoned cocoa plantations can become productive once more. Germplasm collection is also a priority since North-eastern Peru is a centre of genetic diversity for cocoa and recent collections have attracted attention as a potential source of resistance against all three major cocoa disease present in Peru: witches broom, black pod and frosty pod rot (Moniliasis). If better disease and husbandry management can be achieved, Peru has the potential to become a significant producer of cocoa exports in Latin America. These efforts are particularly important as they support and provide a future for smallholder farmers previously dedicated to elicit coca production.
Conservation of genetic resources in Guyana may help the country to develop its cocoa production. The Guyana Cocoa Research Initiative is a collaborative project between the University of the West of England (UWE) and the National Agriculture Research Institute (NARI) in Guyana which hopes to collect wild cocoa germplasm from remote forest areas and to help re-establish the Guyana National Genebank at Timehri. The site and situation of wild germplasm is to be fully documented and samples of the genetic material sent for analysis in the UK. Financial and advisory support has been provided by BCCCA.
The BCCCA have also previously funded cocoa germplasm collection projects in Latin America. These have included the collection of morphologically distinct cocoa types from isolated areas in the vicinity of ancient Mayan settlements in Belize and in association with the London Cocoa Trade, collection, documentation and conservation of germplasm from Ecuador.