Cacao (Theobroma cacao) is a plantation commodity with high economic value. Also called cocoa, the plant can produce fruits all year round. Classified as a tropical plant, cocoa is suitable with the soil culture and climate in Indonesia.
Being an essential raw commodity for the global chocolate industry, cocoa is cultivated by farmers around the world. Take Eduardus, for example. The Sikka born man has become one of the successful cocoa farmers and can make hundreds of millions of rupiah a year by selling cocoa and cocoa saplings from nurseries.
Since 2009, the man who lives at Wolokoli Village, Bola District, Sikka Regency, has been actively involved in transmitting knowledge about cocoa starting from the planting to harvesting. He can even teach you how to choose seeds and plant them in polybags before moving them to the garden.
He has shared knowledge with many cocoa farmers in Sikka. He always knew he wanted to be a farmer since he was a teenager. After graduating from Boawae Agricultural High School (Sekolah Pertanian Menengah Atas) in 1990, he took an agricultural course at the Farming and Planting Agriculture Course (KPTT) in Salatiga, Central Java.
After leaving Salatiga, Eduardus explored vanilla plants. Having worked in several NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) related to agriculture, he gained various knowledge and good farming practices. From 1993 to 1996 he joined the Social Work Foundation in Sikka which developed a demo garden called ‘Bertani Selaras Alam’ in Wolomarang.
Another story of success is Baramang from Saluparemang Selatan Village, Kamanre District, Luwu Regency, South Sulawesi. The 42 year old man is a successful and accomplished farmer. He was appointed to represent Indonesian cocoa farmers at the 2018 Jakarta Food Security Summit (JFFS) held in Jakarta Convention Center, 8-9 March 2018.
His success story is uncommon. He has also helped many cocoa farmers, with his role as Cocoa Doctor, a farmer assistance program initiated by PT Mars Indonesia.
He managed to rise from adversity, when cocoa productivity declined due to pest attacks. In 2015, he attended a Cocoa Doctor training, where he gained a lot of new knowledge, including cultivation, marketing and counseling. But what impressed him the most was the counseling technique, of how to deal with other farmers and share knowledge about cocoa cultivation.
Government Strives to Increase National Cocoa Production
Citing WorldAtlas, Indonesia is the world’s third largest cocoa producer with the production reaching 659.7 thousand tons in 2020. Of the top five cocoa producers, Indonesia is the only country coming from Southeast Asia.
Based on the Statistics Indonesia (BPS) data, a number of provinces in Sulawesi became the largest cocoa producers nationally in 2020. Leading in the list was Central Sulawesi which produced 128.2 thousand tons of cocoa.
Minister of Agriculture Syahrul Yasin Limpo said it would take careful planning and education for farmers so that cocoa production can continue to increase. If this is realized, it is not impossible for Indonesia to become a new power in the world’s cocoa industry.
According to the minister, cocoa has a very good prospect in Indonesia although it takes 2.5 years to harvest the fruits. Therefore, he is optimistic that the Job Creation Act can attract investors in the cocoa sector. He further hopes that Indonesia’s cocoa production can continue to increase so that the number to export will become larger.
Deputy II for Food and Agribusiness Coordination at the Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs Musdhalifah Machmud said the cocoa exports in 2018 had reached 380,000 tons with a foreign exchange contribution of US$1.25 billion. However, the cocoa imports also continue to increase by almost 20% per year.
The increase in cocoa imports, she explained, was caused by the decreasing local production from pest attacks and non-revitalized old cocoa plantations. Thereby, the government through the ministry provides special fertilizer subsidies that meet the conditions of cocoa plantations. This program will continue in 2021 with a target of increasing cocoa production.
“The Coordinating Minister for Economic Affairs has also prepared a concept that farmers corporations can contribute to increasing agricultural productivity, increasing farmers capacity and farmers’ income. It is expected to be the main goal of corporate management through partnerships,” said Musdhalifah.
Cocoa-Specific NPK Fertilizer by Pupuk Kaltim
The cultivation of cocoa relies on soil that is rich in nutrients. Land preparation is carried out by clearing the land from weeds and disturbing dirt, while the fertilization is applied with a help of tugal, a planting tool used by farmers to make planting holes, using urea TSP and Kcl fertilizers.
The dose of fertilizer is determined based on the age of the plant. The first fertilization on cocoa plants is done when the plants are 2 months old after planting. PT Pupuk Kaltim, as one of the producers of quality fertilizers, has produced fertilizers with specific formula for cocoa plants.
NPK Pelangi fertilizer is a compound fertilizer formula that contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium elements needed by plants. PT Pupuk Kaltim has produced NPK Pelangi specifically for cocoa plants.
Since 2017, Pupuk Kaltim has developed NPK Pelangi 14-12-16-4 fertilizer whose formulation was specifically created to support the productivity of cocoa plants. NPK Pelangi fertilizer by PT Pupuk Kaltim consists of 14% N, 12% P2O5, 16% K2O, 4% MGO and additional nutrients of 4% CaO, 3% S, 0.3% ZnO and 0.4% B2O3 .
The benefits are ranging from greening plants, building proteins, chlorophyll and playing a role in the process of photosynthesis. NPK fertilizer also functions for the formation or growth of vegetative parts, such as leaves, stems, and roots. Moreover, it accelerates flower formation and fruit/seed ripening, thus accelerating the harvest period, increasing the percentage of flower formation into fruit, also compiling and stabilizing cell walls that improves plant resistance to pests and diseases.
Executive Director of the Cocoa Sustainability Partnership (CSP) Wahyu Wibowo revealed that Pupuk Kaltim, through NPK 14-12-16-4 fertilizer, aims to support the development of Indonesian cocoa commodities in line with the 2020 CSP Road Map, which is targeting 200 million cocoa plants in 2030.
According to Wahyu, the program is able to answer the doubts of cocoa stakeholders and other parties, because the test results of Pupuk Kaltim products are known to prioritize nutritional content in the right ratio. An inappropriate use of fertilizers is the main cause of the decline in soil pH and fertility, thus affecting the national cocoa production, which currently only reaches around 800 Kilograms (Kg) per hectare. In fact, in one harvest period, cocoa production has the potential to reach 2 – 2.5 tons per hectare.
“The special formula fertilizer from Pupuk Kaltim is a new breakthrough in the Subsidized Fertilizer Program and is very much needed by cocoa farmers,” said Wahyu.
Written by: Renat