India is not a major producer of cocoa beans and the credit for what ever little quantity the country is producing to day goes to Cadbury India which provided the impetus for cocoa cultivation and bean extraction in early nineteen seventies. Of course the chocolate giant had its own compulsions in getting into indigenous cocoa production because of increased domestic demand for chocolate products in the country. High costs of imported cocoa beans and import restrictions prevalent those days provided the necessary spark for the indigenization effort.
The Central Arecanut and Cocoa Marketing and Processing Cooperative Ltd, better known as CAMPCO was set up in July 1973 as an interstate procurement organization for Kerala and Karnataka and provided price support to the arecanut growers in this region suffering from market turbulence due to low demand and non-remunerative prices. Subsequently cocoa was added when the cocoa growers, encouraged to start cultivation with assurance of purchase by Cadbury India, also suffered market slump, looking to government for socour and support. It was in 1986 CAMPCO established its state of the art Chocolate factory in Puttur, for processing cocoa beans into different value added products. Though it had to encounter plenty of problems in terms of capacity utilization because of the dominance of the market leader Cadburys, to day it stands tall amongst the chocolate manufacturers in the country, emulating AMUL the milk cooperative giant which also has chocolate plants in Gujarat. If AMUL supported the cause of milk producers, CAMPCO provided support and stability to the scattered cocoa growers in the South.
The achievements of CAMPCO reached its pinnacle recently when it recorded a production of 11000 tons of products based on cocoa, generating a revenue of Rs 1250 million last year. The technology, facilities, personnel and the management system followed by CAMPCO are second to none as exemplified by the recognition it received in the form the coveted ISO 22000 certification for "preparation, storage and dispatch" of cocoa based products. The range of products made by the plant includes various chocolate products, hard boiled sugar confectionery products, instant beverages, chocolate chips etc. Probably this sterling recognition puts it on par with the reputed Amul cooperative which pioneered the milk cooperative movement in Gujarat making the milk producer stand tall and proud. The cocoa growers were left high and dry when there was market collapse in nineteen eighties and it was CAMPCO which stepped in to save the growers from ruin through procurement, paying remunerative prices. It augurs well for the country that CAMPCO is foraying into Goa and Assam to transplant its rich experience to the farmers there. Also laudable are their the plans to enter the rubber sector with the same noble objective of protecting the interests of the growers.
Though cocoa production in India is insignificant compared to that in Ivory Coast and Ghana which together account for 60% of world production, more than 50% of domestic demand for cocoa beans is met by indigenous production of about 11000 tons harvested from 17000 hectares. The present procurement price of Rs 48 per kg of wet beans is considered highly remunerative and CAMPCO has been able to pass on the benefits of increasing global price to its farmer members. If such a price is maintained for some time, cocoa cultivation is bound to expand dramatically in the coming years. The health tag being given to chocolates for its high antioxidant properties is driving the demand for chocolate significantly and CAMPCO is all set to exploit this trend for the benefit of its members. The expected certification by ISO 14000 and OHSAS 18000 will further boost its stature nationally as well as internationally. CAMPCO, standing shoulder to shoulder with AMUL are shining examples of efficient and profitable cooperative players when many of the public sector industry guzzling billions of rupees from the exchequer are on the brink of bankruptcy.