The agricultural sector, companies, and researchers should do more research into the cocoa market, and utilise the by-products of the crop to develop the sector, a seminar heard in Ho Chi Minh City on November 19.

Le Duc Thinh, Deputy Head of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development's Department of Cooperative Economy and Rural Development, said not much research is done into cocoa and the industry lacks professional researchers.

Most researchers in the field are from other sectors, he said, and much of their studies is impracticable, he told the seminar organised by the Cao Nguyen Xanh Joint Stock Company.

They focus on particular problems to cope with short-term challenges related to production, improving quality, expanding cultivation area, and diseases, while basic research to achieve greater understanding of the fundamental aspects of the sector is lacking, he said.

The Government has invested in research but that mainly focuses on seedling and farming techniques, and few studies are done on developing the domestic cocoa market, marketing strategies, or developing the value chain, he said.

This should be changed, and the Government should collaborate with the private sector for such research and strengthen co-operation with international cocoa research organisations, he said.

Nguyen Van Hoa, Deputy Director of the Department of Crop Production, said though cocoa trees were introduced to Vietnam in the 1950s, cocoa plantations did not prosper until 10 years ago.

Since cocoa is still a relatively new crop in Vietnam, more research is needed to come up with better cultivation techniques to improve efficiency, he said.

The area under the crop has increased from 2,000-3,000ha in 2003-04 to nearly 20,000ha now.

Those areas applying proper farming techniques achieve very high yields, he said.

Experts said the industry has new opportunities thanks to the growing global demand, which is expected to cause a shortage of one million tonnes by 2020.

The seminar was held as part of the "Cooperation for enhancing sustainable cocoa development," a Vietnam-Netherlands public private partnership project for sustainable cocoa development, which aligns the public efforts with those by Rabobank Foundation, Mars Incorporated, Cargill and others.-VNA