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By Emin Madi
KOTA KINABALU, April 12 -- The Malaysian cocoa industry needs to be developed at the upstream, middle and downstream levels to ensure that the industry is viable and profitable for those involved in the industry.
Malaysian Cocoa Board (LKM) chairman Dr Aliakbar Gulasan said such efforts are important to ensure the balanced development of all levels of the cocoa industry, which is open to participation from all members of the society, especially the youth.
To achieve its target, the board will be focusing on the development of farmers, entrepreneurs, traders, manufacturers and transporters in the industry.
“I also believe that research and development (R&D) is LKM’s main strength, as the results from LKM’s R&D have produced products that can be commercialised.
"Apart from helping the B40 group in the upstream and downstream cocoa sectors, the commercialisation of products must be emphasised to generate new incomes for LKM and interested entrepreneurs," he told Bernama.
Aliakbar, who was appointed as LKM’s chairman in July last year, said the cocoa cultivation area in Malaysia currently stood at 5,898 hectares; comprising 3,309 hectares in Sabah, 1,323 hectares in Sarawak, and 1,266 hectares in Peninsular Malaysia.
He said Malaysia’s cocoa industry will continue to have a bright future if farmers implement LKM’s plans such as the production of premium single origin cocoa beans.
“Farmers are also encouraged to grow cocoa together with other economic crops, especially coconut, as mature cocoas require some protective shade.
"To revitalise estate participation in cocoa cultivation, LKM will work with the Incorporated Society of Planters to promote cocoa cultivation to plantations, together with other economic crops through the 'farm to table' concept," Aliakbar said.
He said to encourage more smallholders to grow cocoa, LKM has introduced the production of uniquely flavoured cocoa beans, where farmers would produce premium cocoa beans through clone cultivation and fermentation methods.
Aliakbar said these premium cocoa beans would fetch higher prices.
"There are farmers who can sell their cocoa at RM18 per kilogramme (kg), compared with the usual price of RM8 per kg," he said, adding that LKM is always ready to help farmers and cocoa entrepreneurs in boosting the country's cocoa bean production.
He said LKM has implemented several game-changer programmes such as the Cocoa Cluster Chain Development Programme which aims to achieve the objectives of the National Commodity Policy.
He said the programme involves more than 3,000 farmers through their participation in productivity improvement programmes, new cocoa crops initiative, cooperative development and the construction of a chocolate processing complex.
"So far, three clusters have been developed, namely the Ranau Highland Cocoa Cluster in Sabah, the Peninsular Cocoa Cluster in Peninsular Malaysia and the SARA Cocoa Cluster in Sarawak," he said.
He said LKM will also be organising the 2021 National Cocoa Conference in Kota Kinabalu, to be held once the COVID-19 issue has been resolved and upon approval by the National Security Council.