A new industry is in operation in far north Queensland, growing plants from hybrid seed imported from Papua New Guinea. Boutique markets are under development using the concept of high quality ‘origin’ chocolate and there is potential for chocolate-based tourism built around a ‘bean to bar’ concept.
Growing cocoa as a plantation species is challenging and the industry is addressing fundamental issues of cultivation and processing. Establishment of seedlings is challenging and the trees are prone to cyclone damage, but research is underway to investigate solutions for these problems. The establishment of the industry will be greatly helped by the development of a successful method of processing of Australian grown beans, which involves mechanised pod splitting and extraction, fermentation and drying of the beans. The economic viability of Australian-based production will be reliant on good prices and high productivity of harvesting and processing.
Facts and figures
- Cocoa is a small (4–8 metres) evergreen tree, native to the deep tropical regions of Central and South America
- Establishment is challenging as the plant is particularly sensitive to wind, high light levels and moisture stress
- Beans from the plant are used to make cocoa mass (liquor), powder, cocoa butter, paste and chocolate
- The industry is a new industry in Australia and there are around 20 hectares in production
- Potential industry development in Australia lies in the development of an ‘origin’ based boutique chocolate industry and tourism opportunities such as ‘bean to bar’
Worldwide production of cocoa was approximately five million tonnes, with over 70% of production was in Africa. Around the world, 90% of production is on landholdings of 4.8 hectares or less; and 5% comes from plantations of 40 hectares or more.
The industry in Australia is new, with only 15 to 20 hectares under production. An eight-year feasibility study showed that the best production in Australia was at Mossman, 100km north of Cairns. New plantings are also being established in the Innisfail region using trellis management. There is potential for an industry to encompass 1,000 hectares, producing up to 3,000 tonnes of dried bean. The value of raw product to the region would be around AU$10–12 million.