Malaysia looks to doubling its cocoa exports by focusing on premium beans

Malaysia exported RM7.8 billion worth of cocoa goods last year, and the Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) estimates the country can more than double that amount in the coming years, thanks to an anticipated 9.8 per cent annual growth rate, compared with only a projected 2.2 per cent rise in Europe.

The global cocoa demand will reach US$15 billion by 2027.

MCB director-general Dr Ramle Kasin (main image), who has been with the board for 33 years, said Malaysia could grind up to 380,000 tonnes of cocoa beans annually.

Globally, Malaysia is ranked sixth for cocoa bean processing and grinding, behind the Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Indonesia, Germany, and the United States.

Ivory Coast has a total grinding capacity of 712,000 tonnes.

“We have to import cocoa beans for grinding as we do not produce enough in Malaysia,” said Ramle, who has a PhD in Agricultural Extension.

“If we can produce more cocoa locally, we can reduce how much we import.

“There is much room for growth in Malaysia. We are also helping our 6,000 cocoa farmers to produce higher quality beans to penetrate the premium chocolate market.

Ramle said MCB held a Malaysia Cocoa and Chocolate Day exhibition at a leading shopping mall last year, bringing together six manufacturers, 17 chocolate entrepreneurs, two non-food cocoa product entrepreneurs, three equipment and packaging suppliers, Cocoa Cluster Cooperatives, pepper-based product entrepreneurs, and officials from the Health Ministry’s Food Safety Division.

He said many farmers connected with chocolatiers and have started supplying cocoa beans to them.

Ramle said MCB works closely with the farmers to upgrade their farming methods, encouraging them to enter the single-origin bean market.

“We have research labs to see how we can produce better beans. We then pass on that knowledge to the farmers.”

He said Malaysian chocolates have won many awards over the years, with Benns Ethicoa being the most famous, winning gold and silver medals at many world competitions.

“Benns Ethicoa has made its name by producing single-origin beans, which means, you can trace where the beans come from.

“Many chocolatiers mix their beans, so it is difficult to identify the source, but premium brands these days are all about single-origin beans.”

Ramle said farmers could earn up to three times more by concentrating on producing premium beans.

“The normal price is around RM8.50 per kilogramme, but single-origin beans can fetch between RM15 and RM25 per kilogramme, depending on the quality,” said Ramle.

He said MCB has also introduced a ‘farm-to-table concept’ for the farmers to produce and sell their finished cocoa products via Cocoa Cluster Cooperatives.

“This has been well-received, especially in Sabah and Sarawak,” said Ramle.