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Dunedin's Cadbury chocolate manufacturing plant could be sourcing the majority of its cocoa bean ingredient from the Asia-Pacific region in coming years.
Cadbury's parent company yesterday launched a 10-year, global $US400 million ($NZ490 million) investment into sustainable cocoa production, predominantly around the Asia-Pacific region.
Cadbury Australia-New Zealand corporate sustainability director Simon Talbot said predictions were for a global shortage of hundreds of thousands of tonnes of cocoa beans by 2020.
Cadbury wanted to encourage the establishment of a more sustainable crop, with quality and yields the focus for the benefit of growers.
Cocoa trees grow only in the equatorial band, about 8deg north or south of the equator, and take five to seven years to mature and bear fruit, Mr Talbot said from Melbourne yesterday.
At present, the cocoa used at Cadbury in Dunedin was 77% sourced from Africa and 23% from the Asia-Pacific region, but Mr Talbot wanted to encourage a "more than doubling" of exports from the Asia-Pacific in coming years.
Mr Talbot declined to reveal how many tonnes Cadbury, as the world's largest chocolate manufacturer, used each year, for confidentiality reasons.
On the international cocoa bean market, prices have risen from $US2110 ($NZ2582) a tonne in May to a high of $US2620 in September, but that had since fallen off to $US2465, yesterday.
Cadbury New Zealand's parent, Mondelez International (formerly Kraft Foods) initiated the Cocoa Life programme as necessary to help transform the livelihoods of cocoa farmers and communities in the long term.
"What this means for the Australian and New Zealand business is that we will begin to source the majority of our cocoa from the Asia Pacific [region]," Mr Talbot said.
Other than a new source, there would be no changes afoot for the Cadbury site in Dunedin, he said.
Cadbury had numerous field staff and more than 100 people working in research and development to help Asia Pacific growers improve crops and maintain quality, he said.
A "significant proportion" of the $US400 million would be spent in the Asia-Pacific region, and the company was at present evaluating opportunities in areas such as Sumatra, Sulawesi, West Papua, Papua New Guinea and several Pacific Islands, he said.
"Our Cadbury New Zealand business has a long-standing commitment to sustainable sourcing both locally, buying milk from New Zealand farmers, and internationally through its support of Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, but Cocoa Life takes this commitment to a new level," he said.