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Sweeter prospects for Malaysian cocoa
 
News From : DagangHalal.com (3/22/2010)

Barry Callebaut AG, the world's largest chocolate maker, plans to produce up to 5,000 tonnes of superior grade cocoa beans in Malaysia within three years.

For a start, Barry Callebaut wants to produce 1,000-1,500 tonnes of such beans in the first 12 months using an in-house technique known as controlled fermentation.

The technique will allow it to match the taste of Malaysian cocoa with that of West African cocoa, Barry Callebaut chief executive officer Juergen Steinemann said.

Many consumers in the traditional chocolate consuming countries of Europe and North America are used to the flavour of West African cocoa, he added.

Cocoa fermentation is a process to develop the bean's characteristic taste and flavour, Barry Callebaut Malaysia senior vice-president Ng Boon Yeap said.

While bean fermentation normally happens spontaneously in the bush or the cocoa plantation, Barry Callebaut has developed a controlled fermentation with defined micro-organisms. This provides consistent, predictable and superior cocoa bean quality, Ng added.

"Due to the current growth limitations in cocoa supply from Ivory Coast - the world's largest cocoa producing country - and our growing demand for cocoa, we have strategic need to diversify our cocoa origins," Steinemann said.

He was speaking after the signing of a memorandum of understanding with the Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) for joint research on the use of microbial cultures in cocoa bean fermentation yesterday.

Malaysia and its neighbouring countries produce about 15 per cent of the global cocoa harvest annually, Steinemann noted.

In terms of grinding, Malaysia is the largest cocoa grinder in Asia.

Under the memorandum, MCB experts will undertake the research at its R&D centres nationwide as well as help Barry Callebaut identify sites for field tests.

Selbourne Estate's cocoa plantations in Pahang, owned by Kuala Lumpur Kepong Bhd (KLK), will be one of the test sites for Barry Callebaut's controlled fermentation.

At least 20 other sites have been identified for the first phase of implementation.

Barry Callebaut's factory in Port Klang will process the resultant beans from the process into premium chocolate and cocoa products. They will then be commercialised in Asia Pacific under the well-known Selbourne brand and KLK cocoa brand respectively.

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