USDA Expands Public-Private Partnership to Improve Cocoa Production Worldwide

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2012 — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that it will expand its partnership with the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) to improve cocoa production in developing countries worldwide, stimulating economic growth and improving the livelihoods of local farmers, producers and processors.

Over the next five years, USDA and WCF will provide fellowships to 32 scientists and public- and private-sector professionals from cocoa-producing countries through two USDA programs: the Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science and Technology Fellowship Program and the Cochran Fellowship Program.

"Millions of people in West Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America depend upon cocoa production for their livelihoods," said Suzanne Heinen, administrator of USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service. "Through this public-private partnership, fellows from these regions will gain skills and knowledge that they can take back home to help their countries become more competitive in producing and exporting quality cocoa and cocoa products."

"The United States also benefits from this partnership and efforts to increase cocoa production," Heinen said. "About 70,000 Americans are directlyemployed in the cocoa and chocolate industries with many more employed in related industries such as dairy, sugar and nuts."

Under the new agreement, USDA and WCF will offer 20 fellowships through the Borlaug Program. Borlaug fellows complete a 12-week training program at a U.S. research institution, working closely with an assigned mentor. The U.S. mentor then travels to the fellow's home country to continue collaboration and help broaden the program's impact. Under a previous five-year agreement, USDA and WCF trained 23 scientists through the Borlaug Program.

The new USDA-WCF agreement expands training opportunities beyond the scientific community to include mid- and senior-level professionals from both the public and private sectors. Under the auspices of the Cochran Program, 12 fellows will travel to the United States for two-three weeks for field observations, industry visits, seminars and other training.

"Having WCF as a partner in this effort adds great value to the fellows' experience. Not only does WCF provide funding support, but they also bring visiting fellows to their member companies’ research and manufacturing facilities, giving them exposure to the entire cocoa value chain," Heinen said.

The announcement was made at the PMCA International Association of Confectioners conference in Lancaster, Pa.

More information about the Borlaug and Cochran Fellowship Programs is available at www.fas.usda.gov/programs/.

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