TNAU-Cadbury project will include collaborative research
COIMBATORE: Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) on Friday signed a memorandum of understanding with Cadbury India Limited (CIL) for promoting cocoa cultivation in the State.
Signed by TNAU Vice-Chancellor C. Ramasamy and CIL Associate Vice-President K.P. Magudapathy, it will entail a five-year project that will include collaborative research and cultivation of cocoa with Rs. 50 lakh as the initial start-up. CIL expects to scale up the amount to Rs. 1.5 crore eventually.
The project, based on public-private partnership, will see the university identifying germ-plasm for quality production of cocoa. It will provide the company with the technical know-how that will be transferred to farmers who will cultivate cocoa in their farms.
“Cocoa is the main input for producing chocolates, health drinks and pharmaceuticals. We already have a germ-plasm for cocoa in the university. The CIL project will be time-consuming and will be strictly evaluated to promote more yield. The university is interested in the promotion of horticulture. Such measures will help achieve the expected four per cent growth in agriculture,” the Vice-Chancellor said.
“The project is part of our corporate social responsibility to reach out to the farming community. Coconut farms do not usually have an inter-crop. Cocoa can be used as an inter-crop to avoid weeding expenditure. Coconut trees will give the required shade to the cocoa plants while the leaves of the cocoa plant can be used by the coconut trees for nourishment. A cocoa tree lives for 50 years. So it ensures sustainable income to the farmer,” Mr. Magudapathy said.
The total area under cocoa in India is around 75,000 acres with a production of 9,000 to 10,000 tonnes. In the State, it is cultivated in Pollachi, Dindigul, Theni, Salem, Kanyakumari, Thanjavur, Vellore, Erode and Krishnagiri.
“The requirement grows by 15 per cent every year. The university will identify further areas where it can be cultivated. We will sell the saplings to interested farmers. Once the crop is ready, they can sell it to any consumer. We will also buy from them. But, they are not bound to sell it only to us,” Mr. Magudapathy said.
T. Bellie, Joint Director of Horticulture, Chennai, said: “Cocoa is being given a major thrust in the State by the National Horticulture Mission. They can plant as many as 200 cocoa plants on a one-acre coconut farm. The Mission gives the farmer a subsidy of Rs.11, 250 a hectare to grow cocoa.
“They will get an additional income, besides the income from selling coconuts, from cocoa.”
The project is expected to fetch the farmers a profit of Rs.20,000 an acre. The CIL planned to grow cocoa on 6,000 hectares in 2008 and subsequently increase it to 10,000 in 2009.
K. Rajamani, Head, Department of Spices and Plantation Crops, TNAU, will be the principal investigator heading a team of professors from the university.