Over the last 11 years, a viable cocoa industry has begun to take shape in Vietnam and Mars was involved with this development since the beginning. Last year, the nation exported about 3,000 tons of fermented cocoa. We’ve been working closely with the Vietnam Cocoa Development projects and cocoa farmers in Vietnam during these years to test and define the best cocoa fermentation and drying methods to give high quality cocoa. The cocoa farmers in Vietnam are some of the best I’ve ever encountered in my life. They are diligent, hardworking, and open to new ideas, and as a result of adopting these methods, the quality of Vietnamese cocoa has been quite high from the beginning.
As production has increased, however, the nation’s high standards for bean quality have become much harder to maintain. In June, we organized a workshop in Vietnam to discuss with all the cocoa stakeholders the current issues of cocoa quality. As part of this effort, we also talked about processes needed that farmers could take advantage of to produce the best cocoa possible and to ensure that their quality does not slip as the quantity grows.
The workshop featured a combination of farmers, traders, local chocolate producers, Mars personnel, government officials and scientists. We reviewed many of the issues presented by different stakeholders and the most important conclusion was that to assure the quality of Vietnamese cocoa in the future, it’s critical to engage the Vietnamese government – which should define and enforce standard fermentation protocols and infrastructure, as well as national export standards. As result of this workshop, within just two weeks, Mars has already organized and led the Vietnam governmental delegation to Malaysia to be hosted by Malaysian Cocoa Board and to learn the best ways for cocoa quality systems establishment and enforcement.
Vietnam’s cocoa farms have made a tremendous amount of progress over a very short time. To be able to maintain high quality cocoa, farmers should be educated about the correct cocoa post-harvest methods through a set of governmental regulations. By organizing a quality workshop, ensuring the problem is recognized by everybody and addressed by the government, and organizing Vietnam Government visit to Malaysian cocoa board, we are helping to keep the quality of cocoa in Vietnam stay consistently high as the industry continues to develop.