Monday, 29 October 2012
A second look
This is a huge farm – 900 or so hectares near Cianjur, with another larger farm some distance away. Tiara is very focussed not only on rehabilitating the cocoa stock – grafting new clones, replanting old trees - but also in rehabilitating the soil and the microclimate about the tree crop. He argues that plantation culture remove cocoa trees from their natural preferred environment – as an understory plant in a forest. Growers push trees with fertilizers, pesticides and lack of shade to get the highest yields – but this, he feels, is ultimately unsustainable. His focus is now on the soil, improving the genetics of the trees (not just for yield volume and disease resistance, but also taste) and managing the trees to ensure good health and production. He has been planting an overstorey of mahogany, teak and coconuts – all helping to create a more natural microclimate for the cocoa. His observation is that this seems to work – he has not suffered the same losses as others with the recent prolonged drought.
Since our February visit, the farm has received UTZ certification – judged on environmental, social and economic criteria, and new signs have appeared around the plantation