Staff Reporter

Training will be given on methods: Collector

THENI: Cocoa will be cultivated on 600 hectares in the district this year. A subsidy of Rs.35.75 lakh has been released for distribution of seedlings and agriculture inputs, Collector Har Sahay Meena said on Saturday.

He was addressing a seminar on cocoa cultivation for farmers at Kamayagoundenpatti, near here, on Saturday.

Cocoa is cultivated as inter-crop in coconut and areca nut farms along the seashore in Kerala and Karnataka. It is widely used for making biscuits, chocolates, health drinks and cakes.

Cocoa cultivation has been encouraged in the district on the basis of an agreement reached between the State Government and a multinational chocolate manufacturer in June 2007. Farmers having coconut farms can avail this opportunity to raise cocoa as intercrop.

Coconut is cultivated in 14,000 hectares in the district. The total cocoa production in the country is 5,000 tonnes whereas the demand is 10,000 tonnes. Hence, marketing will not be a hurdle to growers, Mr. Meena said.

Hybrid saplings ready

Cocoa cultivation will also bring several invisible benefits to farmers. First, soil erosion will be prevented considerably. The leaves shed by the cocoa tree will help maintain humidity and also ram up micronutrient levels on surface soil. Ultimately, the leaves will mulch and become manure for the coconut trees. The Horticulture Department has kept the hybrid cocoa saplings ready for sale. Farmers can buy from them.

Special training on cultivation, maintenance, harvesting and post-harvesting methods will be imparted to cocoa growers. Field visits to cocoa farms in Coimbatore, a major cocoa-producing centre in the State, will be arranged for willing farmers, Mr. Meena added.

Later, he distributed cocoa saplings to farmers.