Low Yields are the Main Challenge of the Cocoa Sector in Brazil

Ana Lee/CocoaAction Brasil

“For the Brazilian cocoa farming to be profitable, it is necessary that yields be three or four times higher…”

Pedro Paulo de Faria Ronca is the coordinator of the CocoaAction Brasil initiative, in partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation, and the director at P&A consultancy.

Ronca is an agronomist from Escola Superior de Agricultura “Luiz de Queiroz” – USP, postgraduate in coffee farming from the University of São Paulo and in economics and coffee science from the University of Trieste.

Pedro Ronca, coordinator of CocoaAction Brasil

AgriBrasilis – What are the projects of CocoaAction Brasil? What is the origin and destination of the institution’s resources?

Pedro Ronca – CocoaAction is an initiative of the World Cocoa Foundation – WCF, that seeks to unite the participants of the cocoa chain in Brazil.

We seek to unite agents from the public, private and civil society segments to implement actions that foster the sustainable development of the cocoa sector, focusing on farmers.

The initiative seeks to increase cocoa yields by adopting sustainable agricultural practices, expanding access to rural credit, strengthening the productive sector through the more technical assistance and the promotion of decent work.

We seek environmental conservation by preventing deforestation and promoting reforestation, improving dialogue and disseminating knowledge in the chain.

CocoaAction Brasil has eight funding members – Barry Callebaut, Cargill, Dengo, Harald, Mars, Mondelez, Nestlé, and Ofi – that invest annually so that the initiative can carry out its actions and projects, that by premise are collaborative and pre-competitive: they are intended to benefit the cocoa sector as a whole, without commercial interests.

AgriBrasilis – What is the situation of the cocoa production sector in Brazil? What is the national production and what are the expectations for the coming years?

Pedro Ronca – National production today reaches approximately 220 thousand tonnes, in an area of 600 thousand hectares, located mostly in the States of Bahia and Pará.

Cocoa is a crop based on family farming. It is estimated that, of the 93 thousand cocoa farmers in the country, around 74% are small farmers and/or family farmers.

Brazil is the 7th largest cocoa producer in the world, after Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Indonesia, Ecuador and Cameroon. The main challenge of the Brazilian cocoa chain are the low yields, estimated at 300kg/ha (national average). For the Brazilian cocoa farming to be profitable, it is necessary that yields be three or four times higher, that is, around 1,200 to 1,500 kg/hectare.

The sector works to be self-sufficient in the next five to ten years. We hope to harvest enough cocoa to supply the national milling (processing) and chocolate industry, without the need to import cocoa.

AgriBrasilis – You comment on the need for a promotion plan for the cocoa chain. What measures should be taken and why?

Pedro Ronca – Among the main promoting actions, the need to expand and strengthen technical assistance stands out, so that, through the transfer of knowledge, farmers can adopt good agricultural practices, that favor business management and sustainable cocoa farming.

Increased access to credit is also an important instrument for accelerating the increase in productivity and quality of life for farmers, through the purchase of inputs and greater investments in farms.

AgriBrasilis – 78% of the cocoa farming properties on the south coast of the State of Bahia use the cabruca system. What is this system and why is it considered more sustainable? What is the most used production system in Brazil?

Pedro Ronca – Cabruca is an agroforestry system, in which cocoa is cultivated in the middle of the native forest, collaborating with environmental conservation. In the State of Bahia, specifically, this system is called “cabruca”, that is when cocoa is planted under the shade of trees in the Atlantic Forest.

The cabruca is an important protection mechanism for the biome, and coexists with hundreds of species of plants and animals. Cocoa planted in agroforestry systems prevents deforestation and reduces the number of fires.

In Brazil, the production system most used in cocoa is precisely the agroforestry, known as AFS (AgroForestry System). Cocoa planted under the sun/without shades is also adopted, but, being a plant that “enjoys” shading, it is usually grown under the shade of other trees, and in association with fruit trees, such as açaí palms and banana, that help supplement the farmers income.

AgriBrasilis – What is the reason for the expansion of cocoa farming in the Amazon? What are the consequences of this expansion?

Pedro Ronca – Cocoa is native to the Amazon region, that is, it was born in this environment. Currently, one of the largest cocoa farming regions is in the vicinity of the Transamazônica highway, in the State of Pará, encompassing cities such as Medicilândia, Altamira and Uruará.

Cocoa is an agent of preservation and conservation. Most farmers who grow cocoa do so in agroforestry systems, that protect native tree species, capture carbon, collaborate with soil fertility, and prevent deforestation.

A recent study by Embrapa, developed with the support of CocoaAction, entitled “The sustainable expansion of cocoa in the State of Pará”, proved that the expansion of cocoa farms in the State over the last 20 years occurred in previously degraded areas, of pastures, that has contributed to preventing fires and deforestation, and conserving forests.

AgriBrasilis – Has the cocoa sector been able to overcome the problems caused by witches’ broom? What are the main pests and diseases that affect production and their respective forms of control?

Pedro Ronca – Witches’ broom (Moniliophthora perniciosa) is a disease that is still in evidence in Brazil today and harms cocoa production. However, it is possible to live with the disease and achieve good harvests, when correct management techniques are applied, linked to the use of resistant varieties.

The main diseases that plague cocoa farming are of fungal origin. Among them, brown rot (Monilinia fructicola) and wilt disease (Ceratocystis fimbriata) stand out. We recently had news of the entry of moniliasis (Moniliophthora roreri) in Brazil.

Other pests and diseases that have an economic impact on production are: pink disease (Erythricium salmonicolor), anthracnose (Colletotrichum spp.), verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae), Monalonion insect (Monalonion bondari), leafhopper (Clastoptera spp.), thrips (Selenothrips rubrocinctus), bud mite (Eriophyes reyesi), among others.

For control, it is necessary for farmers to adopt integrated pest and disease management (IPM/IDM), that uses chemical, cultural, physical and biological techniques to minimize economic damage.

Ana Lee/CocoaAction Brasil


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