After a disastrous start in the early 70s, cocoa is back and thriving in India, thanks to the growing fondness for chocolate. The Indian chocolate market is growing at a compounded rate of 15-20%. However, per capita consumption of chocolate is still 100-150g, compared to Ireland’s 11kg, which is considered high.
Interestingly, India’s per capita consumption of chocolate has doubled in the last five years. India has always had a sweet tooth, and chocolate is fast becoming its favorite food.
“Indians now prefer chocolate over other Indian sweets for health reasons. It also helped open up the bakery segment for chocolate makers. We have bakery chains that sell their own brand chocolates as offers as packs or even in bulk by weight,” Sarin Patrick, director of Cacobin Chocolatier, a gourmet chocolate maker, told FE.
“As the economy grows, private labeling of chocolates for different clients is seen to grow rapidly. Hospitality is another segment that is growing at a consistent rate. Chocolate is the new trend in the corporate gifting segment, with a variety of gift-packaging and customization in branding. Chocolate has become a premium gifting option,” says Sarin Patrick. The Indian chocolate market is estimated to be worth around R1,500 crore and has been hailed as offering great potential for Western chocolatiers as the market is still in its infancy. More than 70% of chocolate consumption is Either in urban areas.Chocolate consumption is negligible in rural India.
India imports more than half of its cocoa demand each year, with demand growing at a rate of 8% per year. PJ Chakochan, chairman of Indian Organic Farmers Producer Company, said there is a good market for cocoa cultivation in India. “The need for cocoa is increasing and we are trying to increase productivity through our farmers to meet the demand,” he said. The demand for cocoa is a derived demand. It depends on the ‘market volume’ for cocoa-based products such as chocolate, drinks and biscuits.
According to the Kochi-based Directorate of Cashew and Cocoa Development (DACCD), the total area under cocoa is 63,015 hectares (ha), with a total production of 12,900 tonnes. Cocoa is mainly grown in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
“The growth of India’s domestic market has helped us focus more on promoting cocoa Cocoa beans and chocolate industries have a good future in India,” said Venkatesh N Hubli, Director, DACCD. The department has a long-term plan to bring in an additional 50,000 hectares by 2016-17 in view of growing demand.
Farmers in Kerala had bad faith with cocoa in the 80s when prices fell sharply, as the only buyer withdrew from the market. Many farmers then gave up cocoa cultivation. In Kerala, the area under cocoa expanded from 1,823 hectares in 1970-71 to 23,506 hectares in 1980-81. In 1982-83, it came down to 18,234 hectares.
“Perceptions about cocoa farming have changed completely in the last few years. Cocoa is now being promoted as an inter-crop when it used to be sold as a mono-crop,” said Venkatesh.
This reduces risk for farmers even in times of falling prices, he said. The low productivity of cocoa also adds to its advantages as an intercrop. Doubling the government’s subsidies for transplants will increase cocoa production. Indian productivity is 40-50% lower than global standards, which is around 1,000 kg per hectare, says Venkatesh. The focus of the cocoa crop expansion program will be Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, with the Directorate spending R77 crore under the 11th Plan. About 3,00,000 hectares are under irrigated coconut plantations in Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which can be exploited for additional income for farmers, he said.