Putting Borneo cocoa on the world chocolate map

KUALA LUMPUR: An international chocolate brand is planning to use cocoa grown in Sabah and Sarawak to produce its sweet treats in a move that proponents say would place Malaysia on the global confectionery map.

“From production to packaging, the chocolate will be labelled as originating from Borneo, emphasising its unique quality,” said the Plantation and Commodities Ministry’s Cocoa and Pepper Industry Development Division undersecretary Cheah Chee Fong (pic).

The company would use cocoa from Borneo to produce single-origin chocolates, he added.

Single-origin refers to chocolates made from cocoa sourced from a specific region or country, rather than a blend from different areas.

In an interview, Cheah said the international company also expressed interest in investing in Malaysia if the country could produce high-quality cocoa beans.

“This investment will cover the entire chocolate production process, which will greatly ... enhance Malaysia’s cocoa cultivation.

“We need to increase our production capacity. In 2022, Malaysia produced 500 tonnes of cocoa. In the 1990s, Malaysia’s annual cocoa production reached 225,000 tonnes,” he said.

Reflecting on Malaysia’s cocoa cultivation history, Cheah noted past successes, particularly by Felda and cocoa estates.

“However, there was a decline later, due to low prices, coupled with pest and disease problems.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, farmers were unable to tend to their cocoa orchards.

“Later, the farmers switched to planting other crops, which significantly reduced the cocoa cultivation output,” he added.

Cheah said that cocoa growing requires careful attention, but the crop has potential for high returns if it is managed efficiently with technology and intercropping with other plants.

“Cocoa can be intercropped with coconut and durian, so we encourage farmers to diversify their investments,” he added.

He said the Malaysian Cocoa Board is determined to revive the country’s cocoa industry by focusing on two primary sectors, namely the upstream and downstream sectors.

Both sectors will add value through products that contribute to the country’s economy, he said.

Currently, cocoa cultivation is mainly done in Sabah and Sarawak, with the peninsula contributing a smaller portion.

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