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Friday May 8, 2009

Malaysia to go big with cocoa

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian International Cocoa Fair 2009 (MICF 2009) kicks off today with the host aiming to expand its share of the global cocoa industry by boosting exports to new markets such as Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

The fair, which goes on until May 12 in Kuala Lumpur, is expected to attract over 1,000 chocolate suppliers and confectionery giants from the United States, Europe, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Japan.

The MICF 2009 consists of three events – The Malaysian International Cocoa Conference (MICC 2009), The Malaysian International Cocoa Exposition (MICE 2009) and The Malaysian International Cocoa Dinner.

Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) director-general Datuk Dr Azhar Ismail told StarBiz that Malaysia was fast gaining reputation as an exporter of high quality cocoa butter, cocoa powder and cocoa liquor worldwide.

As Asia’s largest cocoa-grinding and processing hub, Malaysia currently has 11 major cocoa-grinding players.

The country’s cocoa exports last year hit a record RM3.35bil, with cocoa butter representing the bulk.

Azhar said MCB, as the custodian of the domestic cocoa industry, wanted to intensify the promotion of local cocoa products internationally.

“We are targeting to boost exports to new markets like Eastern Europe and the Middle East, while maintaining our strong traditional markets in the United States, Europe and Japan,” Azhar said.

He added that Malaysia’s cocoa butter, which has a higher melting point at 36 degrees Celcius, was more favoured among confectionery manufacturers compared with cocoa butter from West Africa.

Azhar said MCB was confident of achieving the Government’s target of 40,000ha cocoa plantations and production volume of 60,000 tonnes by 2020.

MCB was eyeing higher allocations of over RM100mil under the 10th Malaysia Plan compared with RM83mil under the Ninth Malaysia Plan, he added.

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