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Nestle to help Ivory Coast coffee and cocoa

Nestle is helping the Ivory Coast's coffee and cocoa industries by providing 27 million coffee plants and 12 million cocoa seedlings to the nation.

The West African region's coffee sector has struggled in the face of great political crises, while the distribution of cocoa seeds should help the world's top grower to stave off potential problems with production. 

Figures for the 1999/2000 coffee season saw Ivorian Robusta output peak at more than 6 million 60 kg bags. However, according to figures by the International Coffee Organisation, the civil war – which ended in 2011 – brought down production to just 982,000 bags in 2010/11.

Agriculture Minister Sangafowa Coulibaly commented on Nestle's help: "With this initiative, we will relaunch coffee production."

In terms of cocoa, the Ivory Coast saw record output figures in 2011, exceeding 1.5 million tonnes of beans, Reuters reports. However, ageing trees and falling yields have proven a cause for concern.

Furthermore, not only will the project see growers in both industries trained in line with the most modern farming techniques, but Nestle is now also behind a $4 million (£2.45 million) coffee and cocoa research centre in the Ivorian town of Zambakro. This should help to ensure that the country stays among the frontrunners supplying both of these soft commodities. 

Nestle's director of development and technology research Johannes Baensch said of the centre: "Our vision for Zambakro is to furnish [growers with] the scientific know-how and techniques needed for sustainable improvement of security and quality of cocoa and coffee."

Individuals will also be trained in how to instruct other growers throughout the country in order to strengthen the whole industry.

It is reported that this is where the cocoa seedlings will be planted, while labs and experimental plots at the site will be used to investigate higher-yield strains of the crop, with the aim of safeguarding the future of the industry against climate change and the threat of disease.

However, it will not just benefit the cocoa sector. The Swiss company believes that the centre could help to boost the Ivory Coast's coffee output to about three tonnes per hectare, from around 300 kg. Similarly, it hopes to improve this figure for cocoa from 400 kg to 2 tonnes.