Entry: Bill Guyton, World Cocoa Foundation
I just returned from Vietnam, the final stop on a three country trip. Other countries visited during the 10 day trip included Japan where I met with World Cocoa Foundation members, and Indonesia to attend the 16th International Cocoa Research Conference.
My brief stay in Vietnam was very rewarding and interesting. Cocoa cultivation in the country dates back to 1878, when the French first introduced the crop, along with several other cash crops. Since then, cocoa has been farmed on a relatively minor scale. In 1994, the Vietnamese market was opened to the West. During this period, cocoa prices were depressed, thus farmers had limited interest to invest in cocoa production.
Today, the global situation and outlook for cocoa are strikingly different. Cocoa prices are at historically high levels and farmers are eager to learn about how to grow the crop sustainably. I had the opportunity to see first hand how farmers in the DakLak Province are growing cocoa in association with other tree crops, such as cashew and bananas.
In 2000, the World Cocoa Foundation began our support of Vietnamese cocoa through an ongoing grant to Nong Lam University (NLU), under the guidance of Dr. Phuoc and his wife Tuyet. Additionally, WASI research and extension centers in the provinces have contributed significantly by providing cocoa field trials and training farmers on improved cultivation methods.
In 2005, Dr. Tong Khiem, Director General of NAFEC, helped to form the Vietnam Cocoa Committee (VCC) which now includes members from all of the major cocoa growing provinces. My trip coincided with the VCC annual meeting, where I was invited to participate and learn about the achievements and plans for the Vietnamese cocoa sector.
During the one day VCC meeting, I learned that an estimated 12,208 hectares of cocoa has been planted in Vietnam, a 19 % increase over 2008. The rate of area expansion has been relatively slow, based mainly on support from cocoa programs financed through local and international partners. Current production is located in the South and Highland provinces of Bến Tre, Tiền Giang, Bình Phước, Bà Rịa - Vũng Tàu, ĐakLak, Đak Nông, An Giang, Bình Định, Lâm Đồng, Quảng Ngãi, Bình Thuận, and Phú Yên.
The Ministry of Agriculture and partners have helped to train an estimated 6,000 farmers and extension agents on various techniques of cocoa production. Revised training materials on cocoa cultivation techniques will be published in 2010, and updated cocoa information is provided under the cocoa section on the Vietnam Agriculture Extension Website.
Some of the primary cocoa programs in Vietnam supported by international partners include:
- Nong Lam University Cocoa Project – World Cocoa Foundation
- USAID - SUCCESS Alliance, implemented by ACDI/VOCA
- LNV – Holland to support cocoa development and building demonstration models.
- Helvitas – Swiss – Forestry University to implement various programs of research, supporting farmers, and training activities in Bến Tre and Tiền Giang.
- World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in cooperation with the framework established between Vietnam-Holland, to promote research activities of cocoa.
In the coming year, the primary goals of VCC will be to promote increased farmer training, enhance management of varieties and food quality, increase the budget for research, improve the quality of nursery gardens, and expand international cooperation. The 2020 cocoa production target was set at 80,000 metric tons.
The following day, I visited the cocoa clonal trials in the Đồng Nai Province. This cocoa research program is supported by Mars Inc., NLU, and the World Cocoa Foundation. I was impressed that the research facility had a well-established drip irrigation system. From what I understand, the cost to install this equipment is roughly $700 per hectare and can easily increase yields by over 400kg/hectare during research trials.
I would like to thank Dr. Tong Khiem and the VCC members for graciously inviting me to attend their annual meeting and to Dr. Phuoc and Tuyet for their partnership with theWorld Cocoa Foundation through our grant to Nong Lam University.