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Published January 06, 2014, 10:05 AM

Nestle initiative aids the ivory coast

Nestle aims to help the world’s top cocoa grower Ivory Coast head off a potential production crisis by distributing 12 million seedlings to the country’s aging plantations, the Swiss company says.

By: Loucoumane Coulibaly, Reuters

ZAMBAKRO, Ivory Coast — Nestle aims to help the world’s top cocoa grower Ivory Coast head off a potential production crisis by distributing 12 million seedlings to the country’s aging plantations, the Swiss company says.

Ivory Coast achieved record cocoa output in 2011, topping 1.5 million metric tons of beans, but many industry experts predict a gradual drop in production across West Africa as trees age and yields fall.

Nestle, the world’s biggest food group, says it will also grow 27 million coffee plants to help revive the West African nation’s coffee sector, which suffered falling output during a decade-long political crisis.

The seedlings will be grown at a new 30-hectare (74 acres) cocoa and coffee research center built by Nestle in the Ivorian town of Zambakro.

“Our vision for Zambakro is to furnish (growers with) the scientific know-how and techniques needed for sustainable improvement of security and quality of cocoa and coffee,” says Johannes Baensch, Nestle’s director of development and technology research.

The $4 million center houses laboratories and experimental plots that will be used to develop higher-yield plant strains with increased resistance to climate change and disease.

Nestle says plant varieties to be grown at the center could boost annual cocoa yields to 2 metric tons per hectare, from 400 kilograms, while coffee output could rise to about 3 metric tons per hectare, from 300 kilograms.

The center also will teach Ivorian growers about modern farming methods and train instructors to teach others on plantations across the country.

“With this initiative, we will relaunch coffee production,” Agriculture Minister Sangafowa Coulibaly says, adding that Ivory Coast is targeting annual production of 300,000 metric tons in the next few years, up from around 100,000 metric tons last season.

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