The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set its sights on bringing 35,000 hectares under cocoa farming and increasing exports of the bean and other products to 60 million USD by 2015.

In a report, which it released at the International Cocoa Conference held on Dec. 13 in Ben Tre Province , the ministry said the country now grew cocoa on a total of 20,100ha. The annual output of cocoa beans is 240 tonnes while exports are worth 520,000 USD, it said.

While 4,555ha are in the Central Highlands , by far the largest area under the crop is in the Mekong Delta – 12,115ha.

Delegates at the conference said with the area under cocoa in the country remaining tiny, the yield is low. Besides, the cocoa products are not of high quality since farmers consider it a subordinate crop after coconut, cashew, coffee, pepper, and fruits, they pointed out.

Only 2,300ha of cocoa is intensively cultivated, the report said.

Delegates recommended that modern technologies should be used for processing cocoa beans to achieve higher quality.

The ministry is seeking sustainable development of cocoa production and thus a gradual rather than sudden increase in the area under the crop.

It is developing plans for producing international standard cocoa in the country. Thus far in Vietnam , only 541ha have been certified by UTZ Kapel as meeting international standards in cultivation, harvesting, and post-harvest activities.

There are 12 UTZ certified co-operatives in several provinces like Dak Nong, Dak Lak, Binh Phuoc, Dong Nai, Tien Giang, and Ben Tre.

The delta provinces of Tien Giang and Ben Tre are developing organic cocoa cultivation.

The ministry said demand for certified Vietnamese cocoa products is rather high among international buyers.

Cargill Vietnam is the leading buyer of cocoa from farmers and processors in the Central Highlands and the delta./.