Australian Cocoa Strategic RD&E Plan (2022-2027)

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Cocoa (Theobroma cacao) is a perennial tree crop that originates from the Amazon rainforest and is predominantly grown in the tropical climates of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Approximately 90% of the world’s cocoa supply is grown by smallholder farmers. Production is usually located in the tropical equatorial belt within 10 degrees of the equator where rainfall is spread through the year, as yields can be impacted by unmanaged plant disease in wetter seasons and by water stress in drier seasons.

Consumer demand for chocolate and chocolate-based products has shown steady compound annual growth of 4.3% over the past 10 years, and in 2021 it was estimated the potential for cocoa production in Australia could grow to a value of $15-20 million by 2030. However, in 2020, Australia net imported $699.3 million of cocoa and cocoa preparations. Australian cocoa growers cannot compete on price against smallholder farmers in developing countries, so the industry relies on selling high-quality cocoa beans into premium, niche markets.

The development of this Australian Cocoa Strategic RD&E Plan (2022-2027) is an essential first step for this emerging industry to grow. The Plan details three key priorities – profitable cocoa-growing systems; quality and differentiated Australian-grown cocoa for premium markets; and a thriving Australian cocoa industry – that are underpinned by the seven strategies:

1. Develop labour-efficient, high-yielding and economic tree training and renewal systems
2. Select and propagate high-performing cocoa varieties
3. Implement biosecurity and pest and disease management
4. Lift the profile, quality and reputation of Australian-grown cocoa and cocoa products
5. Ensure Australian-grown cocoa is safe, quality, sustainable and ethical
6. Disseminate information and foster industry collaboration
7. Investigate opportunities for industry growth

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