Mondelēz and Olam forge Indonesian venture for world’s largest sustainable cocoa farm

Confectionery and snacks group Mondelēz International and Olam Food Ingredients (OFI) are set to deliver a ‘game changing’ venture to create the world’s single largest sustainable commercial cocoa farm in Indonesia, reports Neill Barston.

As the companies explained to Confectionery Production, the project, which will be focused on developing a 2,000 acre site on Seram, the country’s most sizeable island in Maluku province, creating 700 local jobs.

Notably, the model for the collaboration builds on Mondelēz’s experience with the company’s signature sustainable sourcing program, Cocoa Life, and OFI’s ambition for sustainable cocoa, Cocoa Compass, to test a scalable approach for the future of commercial cocoa farming.

The new scheme will reportedly test a modernised and professional blueprint for best practice cocoa farming, optimal land usage and farming community planning which will be explored as a potential model for replication across the region.

Demand for cocoa is growing across Asia, which is set to become the second largest consuming region of cocoa ingredients in the world. Indonesia is a key cocoa-producing country in the region, but farmers have struggled with rising temperatures, low yields and crop disease. Combining their respective expertise in cocoa growing research and development, sustainable cocoa farm management, and good agricultural practices, Mondelēz International and OFI will tackle these problems by improving the livelihoods of partner cocoa farmers, empowering communities and restoring the environmental productivity of a previously deforested landscape.

As well as creating hundreds of new jobs (with nearly half set to be assigned to women), the project has strong sustainability credentials in effectively regenerating 2,000 hectares of  previously deforested brown field land. This will be planted with cocoa, shade trees, forest and fruit trees to promote biodiversity and carbon capture.

More than 1,080 hectares have already been planted across the total plantation area of 3,380 hectares, as well as area of 47 hectares which has been identified as High Conservation Value forest and is being fully protected as a vital habitat for flora and fauna.

The scheme will also have a seedling nursery which can grow up to one million high-yielding cocoa seedlings each year, and there will also be access to healthcare and education for all employees and their families, as well as housing, electricity, water, day care for the 200 families who live on site.

Quentin Roach, SVP Supply Chain & Chief Procurement Officer, Mondelēz International, said: “As one of the world’s leading chocolate makers, we’re on a mission to make cocoa right and to secure a sustainable future for an ingredient essential to our business. With nine years of measurable impact demonstrating improved farmer’s livelihoods and reduced environmental impact of cocoa farming through our signature sustainable sourcing program, Cocoa Life, we’re excited to leverage our know-how in a collaborative approach to sustainable raw material sourcing with a geographically customised solution.

“Creating opportunities to innovate, in partnership with our suppliers, and exploring the ability to scale high-yielding, forest-positive, income-generating approaches to commercial cocoa farming on the single largest farm of its kind offers attractive potential and is an important step forward on our journey to lead the future of a sustainable and resilient cocoa supply.

“This initiative sits alongside Mondelēz International’s existing Cocoa Life program in Indonesia and our cocoa crop science technical centre in Pasuruan, established to support sustainable cocoa farming practices and drive positive change for farmers and communities in the region”.

Gerard A. Manley, CEO of OFI’s Cocoa Business, was equally enthusiastic about the venture, which he described as being potentially ‘game changing’ in its scope for the region.

He said: “We would like to thank the regional and national governments of Indonesia for their support. Ever since we launched our first sustainability program in the country more than 16 years ago, we have been committed to supporting Indonesian cocoa farmers while also protecting the environment.

“We reaffirmed this commitment through our acquisition in 2019 of the country’s largest cocoa processor, BT Cocoa, to connect the full supply chain from cocoa beans to cocoa ingredients. We’re now combining our expertise and knowledge with Mondelēz International, a steward of some of the world’s most iconic snack and chocolate brands. Having just announced the achievement of our 2020 sustainability goals, we believe this partnership is a further significant step towards our Cocoa Compass ambition to have a positive impact on the future of cocoa.”

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