TAWAU: The Malaysian Cocoa Board (MCB) is encouraging more smallholder owners including farmers to cultivate cocoa plants to achieve the target of growing the commodity's plantation area to 10,000 hectares nationwide within five years.

MCB director-general Datuk Dr Ramle Kasin said that the board was ready to assist in promoting cocoa planting through various programmes, including the provision of expertise, as the demand for the commodity was substantial.

He said the country required 380,000 tonnes of cocoa for grinding in Malaysia but was currently producing less than 500 tonnes.

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“Premium cocoa beans are also in high demand and fetch high prices. Cocoa entrepreneurs need to understand the importance of maintaining the quality of the cocoa beans produced in line with the Standard Malaysian Cocoa (SMC), which is used to determine the grade of cocoa beans.

“The quality of cocoa beans produced is a priority, and I hope more producers will produce unique cocoa beans such as single-origin or special flavour beans,“ he told reporters after officiating the post-harvest and cocoa yield improvement course series 1/2024 for the east coast zone of Sabah here today.

The three-day course, starting today, is being attended by 123 farmers and MCB staff.

Meanwhile, Ramle mentioned that MCB had allocated RM5 million for the Cocoa Farm Rehabilitation Programme to rejuvenate 1,344 hectares of cocoa plantation in Sabah.

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He said the allocation was for project implementation from 2024 to 2026, and would benefit 2,084 farmers.