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Hershey Pledges to Improve Cocoa Farming Conditions in Mexico

Words by Samantha Neary
Energy & Environment

North America's largest producer of chocolate, The Hershey Company, certainly made some waves in the past regarding its lag behind competitors in sustainable cocoa farming and fair labor laws, but recently, the company has committed itself to being a role model in corporate social responsibility, specifically sustainable farming. In partnership with cocoa supplier Agroindustrias Unidas de Cacao SA de CV (AMCO), a member of the Ecom Cocoa Group, Hershey has established the Mexico Cocoa Project, a 10-year, $2.8 million initiative to reintroduce cocoa growing in southern Mexico - a plan to  help restore the country’s plagued cocoa farming industry.

Mexico's cocoa crop has been essentially decimated for the past ten years, largely due to the spread of Moniliasis, also known as frosty pod rot, a disease that attacks the fruit of the cacao tree, causing its cocoa beans to become unusable. With this new initiative, Hershey and friends plan on making some changes.

Overall, Hershey hopes to achieve one goal:  Improve the livelihoods of more than 1000 small-scale cocoa farmers and return productive cocoa growing to the ancient birthplace of domestic cocoa.

And to do so, during the next decade, this new program will:

  • provide training in farm renovation and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs).

  • distribute disease-tolerant cocoa trees to renew 1,000 hectares of farmland.

  • quadruple family incomes and contribute to the worldwide supply of sustainable cocoa.

These intentions are reminiscent of the company's recent farming and family efforts in West Africa with the Rainforest Alliance.

Logistically speaking, Hershey and Ecom will coordinate the program with several government agencies in Mexico and a local NGO.

"We have been active in the improvement of coffee farms in Mexico through the provision of new hybrid varieties, and now, we are very excited at the opportunity to expand the activity to assist Mexican cocoa farmers. We are very happy to have Hershey as our partner in this ambitious project to revitalize cocoa farming," said Tonathiu Acevedo, Director of AMCO. "We will begin immediately to build nurseries, leveraging our partner's knowledge of cocoa tree stock, so we can start distributing trees across the Southern Mexico region as soon as possible."

Jorge Eduardo Pena, Vice President and General Manager, Hershey Mexico, mirrors Acevedo's enthusiasm: “Hershey has built a business in Mexico over the last 40 years that spans chocolate, flavored milk and more recently sugar confectionary, particularly spicy candy segment. Today we are very proud to initiate this project that will improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers in Mexico by providing them methods and better processes that will enable them to increase productivity of their farms, resulting in higher yields and family incomes. We are proud that Mexico is where domestication of cocoa started and eager to use Hershey’s 100 years of cocoa expertise to help restore Mexico’s heritage as an important producer of delicious, high-quality cocoa.”

Sounds like a very sweet deal.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Samantha Neary

Samantha is a graduate of Boston University with concentrations in English, Biology and Environmental Policy. After working in higher education textbook publishing for some time, she turned to the freelance writing world and now reports on corporate social responsibility, green technology and policy, and conservation for TriplePundit.

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