Since the project began more than a year ago, Hershey and AMCO have built and maintained nurseries to grow disease-resistant tree stock. The area has been hard hit by Moniliasis, also known as frosty pod rot, a disease that attacks the fruit of the cacao tree, causing its cocoa beans to become unusable. As a result, cocoa yields in the area have dropped by nearly half since 2005.
Following the summit, the partners will begin distributing the first 100,000 disease-resistant trees to cocoa farmers to begin the rehabilitation of the region’s cocoa plantations.
“This summit is a great opportunity after more than a year of hard work to share the great progress we have made with the producers, build on farmers’ commitment to restore their cocoa farms and regain pride for cocoa growing in the region,” said Tonathiu Acevedo, Director of AMCO. “A summit with so many important stakeholders demonstrates the power of what happens when all interested parties come together around a common cause with a goal of benefiting farm families, communities and consumers who love chocolate.”
The inaugural cocoa summit will help raise awareness among Mexican farmers and across the country about the work under way to return the Mexico cocoa industry to a thriving business. The program partners also hope to grow interest among young adults in working in the cocoa industry.
Participating farmers will be trained in the highest standards of sustainable cocoa and labor practices that will enable them to be certified by third-party cocoa certification NGOs. Farmers who receive cocoa trees and training through the program are free to sell their cocoa to whomever they choose.
“We have a strong and growing Hershey business here in Mexico serving local consumers for more than 40 years and our employees in Mexico are very proud to be part of an effort to improve the livelihoods of local cocoa farmers,” added de la Barreda. “We are also very proud about the fact that today we are already using Chiapas cocoa in our chocolate in Mexico and we look forward to the opportunity to increase the use of this delicious, high-quality Mexican cocoa in our products and complete full end-to-end sustainability to our Mexico chocolate manufacturing, from certified cocoa through chocolate produced under our high-quality, ethical manufacturing standards.”