Horticulture Department signs MoU with Cadbury India Limited
The harvest is twice a year during April-May and November-December
ERODE: The district is to witness an increase in cocoa cultivation, thanks to the efforts initiated by the Department of Horticulture. Under the National Horticulture Mission’s Plantation Crop component, the Department has been providing seedlings free-of-cost and inputs.
The Department provides seedlings and equipment worth Rs. 5,625 in the first year, says Deputy Director of Horticulture, Erode, K. Mohan. The inputs include bio-fertilizers, neem cakes and plant protection chemicals as well.
In the second year it gives seedlings at 80 plants a hectare to replace unhealthy plants and equipment, all worth Rs. 2,250.
The near four-decade-old crop is cultivated as an inter-crop in coconut groves and betel nut groves, as it requires 50 to 60 per cent shade.
Mr. Mohan says that an acre can accommodate 200 plants, which start bearing from the third year onwards. The plucking, however, starts only from the fourth year.
The harvest is twice a year during April-May and November-December, with the latter accounting for 60 per cent of the yield. The officer says the average yield per plant is two kg of dry cocoa beans. And, that is after processing the fruit.
Soon after it is plucked, it is cut and left to dry. The whole process involves a couple of days, at the end of which the cocoa bean is obtained.
To further help the farmers, the Department has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Cadbury India Ltd. for the purchase of the beans.
Mr. Mohan says the MoU assures the farmers of Rs. 60 a kg bean but the current market price is around Rs. 100, which is what the farmers get.
A company representative says it at present procures 10 tonnes from farmers in the district. Once cocoa plants in all the 600 ha start bearing, the procurement is expected to go up to 300 tonnes.
The company’s annual requirement is about 15,000 tonnes, though, and 50 per cent of it comes through import.
The officer says in the current financial year the Department hopes to further increase the acreage under cocoa from the current 600 ha to 1,000 ha.
The company, to keep with the increase in cocoa cultivation, has also just started a procurement centre in Kavindapady.