Quality and Flavor of Aceh's Cocoa
Aceh holds significant potential for developing cocoa plantations and industry. Cocoa is one of the plantation commodities contributing to the economy and welfare of the Aceh community. Moreover, Aceh's cocoa boasts quality and flavors that can compete in the national and international markets.
According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS) of Aceh, the cocoa plantation area in Aceh in 2020 spanned 101,230 hectares, comprising 100,980 hectares of producing plants and 250 hectares of non-producing ones. This area ranks Aceh as the fourth-largest cocoa-producing province in Indonesia, following Central Sulawesi, Southeast Sulawesi, and South Sulawesi.
In 2020, cocoa bean production in Aceh reached 41,093 tons, averaging 407 kilograms per hectare. This production marked a decrease compared to the previous year's 43,000 tons, attributed to factors like weather conditions, pests, diseases, and the COVID-19 pandemic limiting plantation activities.
Cocoa plantations in Aceh are spread across nearly all districts/cities, with several areas being key production centers. According to BPS Aceh data, the five districts/cities with the largest cocoa plantation areas in 2020 were Pidie Jaya, Gayo Lues, Bireuen, North Aceh, and Pidie.
Downstream processing of cocoa involves transforming cocoa beans into higher-value products such as cocoa powder, cocoa butter, chocolate, and others. This process can increase farmers' income, reduce dependence on the raw cocoa bean market, and introduce high-quality local products.
In Aceh, downstream processing activities are not extensively practiced by farmers or businesses. Most cocoa beans produced in Aceh are still sold as raw or semi-processed beans to collectors or exporters. Only a small fraction of the cocoa beans are processed into finished products by small-scale or home industries.
An example of a home-scale cocoa processing industry in Aceh is Cado Chocolate, located in North Aceh. This industry produces various chocolate types under the Cado brand, such as chocolate bars, pralines, caramel chocolates, and more, using basic household equipment and strictly selected local cocoa beans.
In addition to Cado Chocolate, other cocoa processing industries in Aceh include the Gayo Mandiri Coffee Cooperative (KSU) in Gayo Lues. This cooperative produces chocolate bars under the Gayo Chocolate brand, using organic cocoa beans from its members' plantations. The cooperative also produces coffee and palm sugar.
Cocoa plantations in Aceh have the potential to develop into a larger and more diverse industry, both upstream and downstream. Upstream sectors include seed, fertilizer, pesticide, agricultural equipment industries, and land processing services. Downstream sectors include cocoa processing, chocolate, beverages, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and health products.
To develop these industries, support from various parties, such as the government, private sector, academia, researchers, and the community, is necessary. Efforts can include enhancing the quality and quantity of cocoa raw materials, promoting innovation and product diversification, building networks among farmers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, distributors, researchers, and the government, and improving human resources involved in the cocoa industry.
Aceh's cocoa has several competitive advantages in national and international markets. These include larger-sized beans (AA category) with high fat and colorant content, a strong chocolate taste and texture with mild acidity, bitterness, and astringency, making it suitable for various processed products with a distinctive flavor. The abundant and evenly distributed raw material across the region eases distribution and processing. Additionally, the potential for cocoa plantation development in Aceh is vast, considering many suitable lands for cocoa cultivation. The government and community's commitment to developing cocoa plantations and industry as a key sector is evident from various programs and policies aimed at enhancing the welfare of cocoa farmers in Aceh.
With these potentials and advantages, Aceh's cocoa deserves to be developed as a competitive and sustainable plantation commodity and industry. Thus, Aceh's cocoa can not only provide economic benefits to the Aceh community but also introduce high-quality local products to the world.