Frosty Pod Disease
An example of Moniliasis, or "frosty pod disease." Photo courtesy of  Hershey Co.

The Hershey Co., in partnership with cocoa supplier Agroindustrias Unidas de Cacao SA de CV (AMCO), will bring the “food of the gods” back to southern Mexico.

The groups have launched the Mexico Cocoa Project, a $2.8 million program meant to restore production in areas where Moniliasis — a disease that attacks the cacao fruit — has almost completely destroyed it.

Jorge Eduardo Pena, vice president and general manager of Hershey Mexico, says the 10-year program will improve the lives of more than 1,000 current cocoa farmers and their families, as well as provide a solid foundation for continued production.

”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,” Pena says. “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.”

In addition to distributing disease-resistant cocoa trees, Hershey and AMCO, a member of the Ecom Cocoa Group, will educate farmers in good agricultural practices and farm renovation with the hopes of quadrupling family incomes.

“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,” says Tonathiu Acevedo, director of AMCO. “We are very happy to have Hershey as our partner in this ambitious project to revitalize cocoa farming. 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.”

The Hershey Co., based in Hershey, Penn. produces brands including Hershey’s, Reese’s, Kit Kat and Twizzlers. Additionally, AMCO is the leading processor cocoa in Mexico and specializes in coffee, cocoa and cotton.