MEXICO CITY (Business Wire) — For the past decade, Mexico’s cocoa crop has been nearly decimated – largely by the spread of Moniliasis, also known as frosty pod rot, a disease that attacks the fruit of the cacao tree, causing its cocoa beans to become unusable. The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) and cocoa supplier Agroindustrias Unidas de Cacao SA de CV (AMCO), a member of the Ecom Cocoa Group, have launched the Mexico Cocoa Project, a 10-year, $2.8 million initiative to reintroduce cocoa growing in southern Mexico and help restore the country’s beleaguered cocoa farming industry. The program will improve the livelihoods of more than 1,000 cocoa farmers and their families in the short term and put in place the foundation to improve the livelihoods of many more cocoa farmers and their families in the near future.
During the next decade, Hershey and Ecom will provide training in farm renovation and Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and will distribute disease-tolerant cocoa trees to renew 1,000 hectares of farmland. The program intends to quadruple family incomes and contribute to the worldwide supply of sustainable cocoa.
“Hershey has built a business in Mexico over the last 40 years that spans chocolate, flavored milk and more recently sugar confectionary, particularly spicy candy segment. Today we are very proud to initiate this project that will improve the livelihoods of cocoa farmers in Mexico by providing them methods and better processes that will enable them to increase productivity of their farms, resulting in higher yields and family incomes,” said Jorge Eduardo Pena, Vice President and General Manager, Hershey Mexico. “We are proud that Mexico is where domestication of cocoa started and eager to use Hershey’s 100 years of cocoa expertise to help restore Mexico’s heritage as an important producer of delicious, high-quality cocoa.”
The Mexico Cocoa Project is one of The Hershey Company’s numerous cocoa sustainability programs around the world and part of the company’s deep commitment to corporate social responsibility and the environment. The program also addresses an ongoing concern of the cocoa industry, which is supporting the long-term sustainability of the world’s cocoa supply while contributing to cocoa sustainability for Mexico.
Hershey and Ecom will coordinate the program with several government agencies in Mexico and a local NGO.
“We have been active in the improvement of farms in Mexico in coffee through the provision of new hybrid varieties, and now, we are very excited at the opportunity to expand the activity to assist Mexican cocoa farmers. We are very happy to have Hershey as our partner in this ambitious project to revitalize cocoa farming,” said Tonathiu Acevedo, Director of AMCO. “We will begin immediately to build nurseries, leveraging our partner’s knowledge of cocoa tree stock, so we can start distributing trees across the Southern Mexico region as soon as possible.”
Cocoa was first domesticated and used as a food as early as 600 B.C. in the tropical lowlands of South Central Mexico by an ancient tribe called the Olmecs. They believed the seeds they called kakawa or cacao gave them health and power. Cocoa use also traces back more than 2,000 years to the ancient Mesoamerica cultures of the Mayans and Aztecs, who considered it a “food of the gods.”
About The Hershey Company
The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) is the largest producer of quality chocolate in North America and a global leader in chocolate and sugar confectionery. Headquartered in Hershey, Pa., The Hershey Company has operations throughout the world and approximately 14,000 employees. With revenues of more than $6 billion, Hershey offers confectionery products under more than 25 brand names, including such iconic brands as Hershey's, Reese's, Hershey's Kisses, Hershey's Bliss, Hershey's Special Dark, Kit Kat, Twizzlers, Jolly Rancher and Ice Breakers. Hershey also offers premium and artisan chocolate products under such brands as Scharffen Berger and Dagoba through the Artisan Confections Company, a wholly owned subsidiary. The company is focused on growing its presence in key international markets such as China and Mexico while continuing to build its competitive advantage in the United States and Canada.
For more than 100 years, The Hershey Company has been a leader in making a positive difference in the communities where its employees live, work and do business. Corporate Social Responsibility is an integral part of the company’s global business strategy, which includes goals and priorities focused on fair and ethical business dealings, environmental stewardship, fostering a desirable workplace for employees, and positively impacting society and local communities. Milton Hershey School, established in 1909 by the company's founder and administered by Hershey Trust Company, provides a quality education, housing, and medical care at no cost to children in social and financial need. Students of Milton Hershey School are direct beneficiaries of The Hershey Company's success.
About Ecom Cocoa Group
Agroindustrias Unidas de Cacao SA de CV is the leading processor of cocoa in Mexico and a member of the Ecom Cocoa Group, part of Ecom Agroindustrial Corp. Ltd. Ecom Agroindustrial is a global commodity originating and processing company specializing in coffee, cotton and cocoa, with local presence in major producing and consuming countries. Ecom is one of the largest merchants of coffee, cotton and cocoa globally and is leader in sustainable agriculture and traceable supply chain management.