THANJAVUR: With Cadbury India Ltd, producer of chocolates, offering a buyback arrangement and with the horticulture department giving thrust to cocoa under its National Horticulture Mission, cocoa remains a sought after crop by farmers and a profitable venture for them in the district. Nearly 300 farmers have taken up cocoa cultivation as inter crop in coconut groves.
According to P. Loganathan, Deputy Director of Horticulture in Thanjavur district, cocoa was raised on 425 hectares last year in Orathanadu, Pattukottai, Peravurani and Papanasam.
This year, the plan is to raise the crop on 1,000 hectares of land. Cocoa pods are ready for harvest in Pattukottai areas. Mohamed Rafi, a farmer of Vadasarukkai village near Papanasam, cultivated Cocoa as an intercrop in his coconut grove. “I have raised cocoa on a hectare of land. Cadbury had given me the seedlings. I have used drip irrigation. The plant is now three months old,” Mr. Rafi said.
According to G. Shivakumar, Technical Officer, and R. Rajesh, Manager, Cocoa operations, Cadbury, the company is providing Rs.11,250 worth of inputs like seedlings, and fertiliser to the farmer in the first year.
In the second year, it bears 20 per cent of the expenditure and in the third year 30 per cent. Five hundred seedlings can be planted in a hectare. Cadbury purchases the dry cocoa seeds taken from the pods at Rs.60 per kg.
Pods can be harvested from the third year while the plant will live for 40 years.
A farmer can reap 600-700 kg of seeds per hectare.
The tree grows into an umbrella shaped one and a lot of leaf fall will be there, helping soil water retention. This, in turn, helps the coconut palms around cocoa plants to bear more nuts.
A pod will have 30-40 seeds inside it which farmers have to break open and dry before selling it to Cadbury. “There is an assured market for the farmers,” Shivakumar said.
Dhanabal, a farmer of Simlampavelankadu near Veppankulam said that he had started harvesting the pods.
Cadbury raises the seedlings in its nursery at Azhakiyanayagipuram. Five lakh seedlings have been raised for supply to farmers.