Vietnam needs policies encouraging the development of cocoa trees with a focus on productivity and quality instead of output for the sustainable development of the cocoa industry.
Vietnam has developed cocoa trees, but in comparison to other crops, they are not very profitable for growers.
This is because Vietnam has only recently developed cocoa in a small area and cocoa trees are mainly intercropped with other industrial trees despite being unique cocoa. Cocoa output is just enough for a small business and they have processed chocolate products as their own brand.
The unique flavour is probably the major competitive advantage of Vietnamese cocoa because apart from Vietnamese varieties, there are also favourable farming techniques and natural conditions.
In my opinion, each enterprise should develop brands for chocolate products, creating a group of brands for Vietnamese chocolate products. That is suitable for the current cocoa production situation.
If we produce chocolate products from Vietnamese unique cocoa under a national brand of Vietnam, the domestic cocoa industry needs large raw material areas which could be developed by large enterprises.
In the current agricultural restructuring process in Vietnam, many localities have changed to cultivate to cocoa trees.
However, linking production with consumption is the most difficult point in the development of the domestic cocoa production industry, especially at the processing stage.
At present, the cocoa production in Vietnam has been not developed and chocolate exports have reached small volume from small businesses. However, Vietnamese chocolate products can compete with the same products produced by enterprises in other countries because local enterprises have built their own brands.
The State needs to have a master plan for cocoa development, while provinces that have conditions to develop cocoa trees such as Dak Lak, Gia Lai and Kon Tum should have support for the development of cocoa. State agencies of Dong Nai Province have plans to facilitate the development of cocoa trees.
Dak Lak has chains of cocoa producers in some localities, so they develop cocoa production. Some localities have also had centres to raise knowledge for farmers to turn them into manufacturers.
Besides that, the State must accompany the cocoa industry that has many opportunities to develop due to high domestic demand from domestic cocoa processing companies such as Puratos and Trong Duc.
In addition, it is necessary to have consumption guarantees for farmers. Trong Duc purchased cocoa from farmers for five years with a floor price of VND5,000/kg for fresh cocoa in 2013-18. In the next five years, this price will never be below VND6,200/kg.
With this price, if farmers in Dong Nai and Ba Ria Vung Tau provinces intercrop cocoa trees with cashew trees, their annual income will be about VND160-170 million per hectare with two kinds of industrial trees.
Vietnam has had hot development of coffee trees from 40,000ha to 640,000ha at present while cocoa trees lack interest.
However, we should not focus on developing product quantity. The cocoa industry needs to focus on increasing productivity and quality because Vietnamese cocoa has a unique flavour.
Agriculture has many hot-growing trees in output, so the cocoa industry should not target 25,000 hectares of cocoa trees. The industry should increase productivity and quality of cocoa as well as value-added chocolate products.
The Vietnam Coffee and Cocoa Association has submitted to the Government a strategic project to develop the coffee industry, focusing on maintaining coffee bean exports and developing deep processing to increase value-added products. Vietnam has mainly exported coffee beans and the domestic coffee industry lacks many value-added products.
We can consider intercropping coffee and cocoa trees because of the similar growing soil conditions.
In addition, the industry also needs to link farmers with businesses. Farmers really need businesses to support them in consumption to maintain stable production. VNS