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 Ecuador Cocoa Rehabilitation

The immediate purpose of the project is to increase cocoa production in Ecuador from the current 85,000 metric tons to at least 140,000 metric tons within a period of five years.  Production of cocoa in Ecuador has been degraded due to high levels of disease, specifically witches' broom (Crinipellis perniciosa) and to a lesser extent, frosty pod (Moniliophthora roreri).  Particular emphasis will be placed upon the production of higher quality 'Arriba' flavor genotypes with premium value to the U.S. confectionary industry.  An ancillary objective to increased production is the improvement of small farmer's incomes.  Smallholders account for the bulk of Ecuadorian production and are tied to U.S. foreign policy objectives of poverty alleviation, rural development and the cessation of narcotics production in the Andean countries.

Background/Problem to be Addressed:

Until the early 1900's, Ecuador was the primary cocoa producer in the world.  Arriba cocoas with unique flavor characteristics, continue to make Ecuadorian production very attractive.  Since the 1920's, the Ecuadorian market position has eroded for a number of reasons.  The loss of cocoa production in Ecuador can be partially attributed mainly to increased disease pressure, lack of high yielding-disease resistant varieties, and poor and inappropriate technology transfer combined with inadequate adaptation of technologies by farmers.  Primary is disease pressure, particularly related to Crinipellis perniciosa and Moniliopthroa roreri.  Additionally, competitive advantages enjoyed by Asian and African producers have also reduced Ecuadorian market share.  In spite of these considerations, Ecuador still produces as an average 85,000 metric tons of cocoa annually; the Nacional varieties are much in demand due to positive flavor characteristics and high quality cocoa butter. 

Major, sustainable improvement needs to be made relating to the proper choice of cultivars, disease control, phytosanitation and integrated pest management, appropriate cloning propagation techniques, post harvest technology and grading of beans for quality characteristics.  Ecuador has a relatively well-developed support infrastructure including research and extension capabilities, farmer unions and an exporters' federation.  The Ecuadorian research station of Instituto Nacional Autonomo de Investigaciones Agropecuarias (INIAP) at Pichilingue, consequently, can serve as the lead organization for in-country research, breeding, selections, clonal gardens and technology transfer.

A comprehensive plan of multiple partners has been developed.  Components include: Research on Integrated Pest Management and Biological Control; Rehabilitation, Characterization, Improvement and Conservation of Cacao Germplasm; and Technology Transfer.

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