The Regional Cocoa Breeders Group is a collaboration of regional Asia/Pacific cocoa breeders in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Papua New Guinea and India. The group meets to address improving planting materials for cocoa farmers. A majority of collaborators are the national cocoa research institutes or universities responsible for cocoa research in each region.
The Regional Cocoa Breeders Group first met in Singapore in 2004, where we discussed the priorities of cocoa breeding and defined activities. In order to successfully identify the best high yielding and pest/disease resistant planting materials, the group has decided to exchange the best planting materials from each of participating organizations. Since the first meeting in 2004, each participating organization has agreed to prepare three crosses of the best clones and send at least 200 hybrid seeds to all others for testing. After each region receives them, these seeds will be planted and evaluated by all collaborators in their research facilities and results will be shared with the entire group.
The highest priority of this collaboration is the development of cocoa clones that will be very high yielding in the presence of regional pests and/or diseases. Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB) is the major challenge for sustainable cocoa production in Asia/Pacific and this pest is present in all cocoa growing areas in the region with exception of Vietnam.
Members of the Regional Cocoa Breeders Group, including myself and other Mars Chocolate representatives, have met every year since 2004 to update their collaborators about the state of exchange activities. We also use this opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with the larger cocoa research community.
The 8th and most recent meeting was held in Malaysia in November 2011.
Since 2004 more than 15,000 hybrid seeds from the best regional clones were exchanged and planted. Evaluation of these crosses is currently underway. Some very promising clones are being identified and after additional field testing the best ones will be released for large scale plantings by regional cocoa farmers to assure sustainable cocoa production in the future.