In order to evaluate the potential for growing cocoa seedlings in Central Kalimantan, our team traveled to Tumbang Olong and Nihan at the end of May as part of our “non-timber forest products” project. The aim of the ten-day trip was to expand contact with local smallholders for a possible future collaboration and to analyze the quality and varieties of their cocoa seedlings planted in the villages. Our team purchased a total of 750 fruits from the two areas and shipped them to Java for an evaluation and testing at the Indonesian Coffee and Cacao Research Institute (ICCRI).
Since 2015, cocoa trees have been successfully planted in Tumbang Olong by Pak Kader and his team of 14 smallholders. 80 percent of their seedlings grow to trees and bear fruit after one and a half to two years. The care of the cocoa plantations requires monthly mowing of the field and the cutting of small branches from the tree. The farmers‘ planting material is already being used by other farmers. This aspect is raising hopes, that there will be more and more independent cocoa plantations and smallholders in the future.
Great interest in collaboration in Nihan
Also in Nihan, a village located between Puruk Cahu and Muara Teweh in Central Kalimantan, 15 farmers run their cocoa plantations. In 2000, the government distributed 500 cocoa seedlings to ten families. However, due to the lack of economic value, the cocoa was never harvested and sold. It was not until 2015 that the cocoa fruits were harvested and other tree nurseries were raised. The farmers were very motivated and showed interest in future collaboration and exchange of know-how for cultivation. Our team also purchased cocoa fruits from this area and brought them to the ICCRI for an analysis and testing.
Fermentation – an important process after the harvest for further processing of cocoa
One part of the ten-day trip included the fermentation of the freshly harvested cocoa fruits from the two areas. The fermentation of cocoa beans has several goals. On the one hand, the pulp can be separated from the beans more easily after the fermentation process, on the other hand, the germination ability of the seeds is killed at temperatures of up to 50 ° C, so that they can be stored. The fermentation is also important for the mitigation of the bitter taste of the beans as well as for the formation of flavors. In the beginning of the fermentation process, the cocoa fruits are opened and the seeds are sorted into three different quality categories. Only the best kernels are fermented, medium-sized kernels are immediately sun-dried. From eight weeks on after fermentation, the cocoa beans can finally be processed.
The analysis of the Indonesian Coffee and Cocoa Research Institute has shown that the cocoa fruits from Tumbang Olong are most likely Trinitario hybrids, primarily Forestero. The variety Forestero stands for a strong cocoa taste and a great significance for the world market due to its robustness and its high yields. But the ICCRI also identified a Trinitario fruit that is closely related to Criollo cocoa. Criollo cocoa is considered to be a very fine cocoa, which tastes hardly bitter and has distinctive side flavors. The ICCRI expects the highest potential in this fruit.