Mars Wrigley outlines plans to triple cocoa production

Delivering sustainable crop yields was a key topic of discussion at the World Cocoa Conference. Mars was among those asserting significant breakthroughs on the issue. Neill Barston reports

Ambitious plans are being explored by Mars Wrigley confectionery that aim to triple cocoa yields on a global level.

Frank Mars, company board member, addressed the World Cocoa Conference in Berlin, stating the US-headquartered business had made significant investment addressing key issues of delivering viable volumes of crops for the future.

He acknowledged that there remained a significant amount of work to be done in terms of assisting cocoa farming communities in producing sustainable crop yields.

Delivering his address at the event held in Berlin last month, he said that “failure was no longer an option,” in relation to the industry’s urgent need to ensure that those working at all levels of the supply chain were enabled to make a decent living from the cocoa sector.

Speaking at the conference, Mr Mars (pictured front, far right at the conference) discussed progress made by its scientific teams, which has recently been published in the  journal Frontiers of Plant Science.

He said: “Over the next ten years, we aim to develop even better disease-resistant clones.

“We’ll focus on both simple and advanced production methodologies and improved farmer practices with a goal to triple cocoa yields globally. This would free up land occupied with unproductive cocoa trees for farmers to grow other crops, including those for their own consumption.

“But to achieve this will require all of us in this room to think differently and work harder together; not only on better plant varieties and farming practices and models, but also on pest and disease control.”

As the company explained, its science studies have built on its initial work with IBM and the USDA that helped sequence the cocoa genome and make it publicly available in 2010.

The global business has also focused on higher yielding pest and disease resistant clonal varieties Mars has helped develop with cocoa growing countries. It is hoped that applying this knowledge will help cocoa farmers produce more cocoa on less land and with less pesticides, which can improve their livelihoods. One of the key drivers of this work has come with the development of the Mars Center for Cocoa Science in Bahia, Brazil.

However, Frank Mars conceded that the industry needed to work even harder to effect meaningful change to support those working at the core of the industry.

He said: “We need to fix this,” he said. “We need to fix this now. We need to fix this together, and to fix this will require change. And change requires being open minded to new ideas, and new ways of working. We know we can’t grow and prosper unless the planet, people and communities on which we rely are healthy and thriving.”

 

 

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