(Corrects company name in JAN 10 story to read “Telcar” rather than “Telecar” throughout)
DOUALA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - A joint venture between agri-food giant Cargill and a Cameroon businesswoman plans to boost sustainable farming and increase cocoa exports to 100,000 tonnes by the 2018/19 season, a rise of a third from last season’s volumes.
Telcar Cocoa Ltd, Cameroon’s leading cocoa exporter which is a partnership between Cargill and businesswoman Kate Kanyi Fotso Tometi, launched a programme in 2011 to boost production of sustainable certified cocoa.
“One of the reasons for bad quality beans in Cameroon is that farmers know little about agricultural practices,” Telcar Sustainability Director Roland Besong Arrey told Reuters.
Sustainable cocoa production requires environmentally-friendly farming techniques that limit the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Beans must be fermented for six days and left to dry in the sun over the same time period.
Since the start of the Telcar programme in 2011, Arrey estimated more than 25,000 of the 33,000 trained farmers had received a UTZ certification, an internationally recognised label for sustainable farming.
Telcar bought its first batch of 4,500 tonnes of certified beans in the 2013/14 season. In 2016/2017, the company had increased its total volume to 74,000 tonnes of cocoa beans, of which 43,700 tonnes were certified.
Officials involved in the venture said Telcar aimed to buy a total of 90,000 tonnes of beans this season, including 55,000 tonnes of certified produce. The company is targeting total purchases of 100,000 tonnes of cocoa for the 2018/2019 season.
Arrey said volumes had primarily been boosted by sustainable farming practices. He said the training programme had helped farmers increase yields from 350 to 400 kg per hectare to 800 kg per hectare, and in some cases up to one tonne per hectare.
On average, Cameroon produces between 230,000 and 250,000 tonnes of cocoa per year. It is the world’s fifth biggest cocoa grower behind the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Indonesia and Ecuador. (Reporting by Ange Aboa and Josiane Kouagheu; Editing by Sofia Christensen and Edmund Blair)