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May 31, 2008

Malaysia to increase cocoa purchases from West Africa

Malaysia plans to increase purchases of cocoa from west African nations including Cameroon, the world's fourth-biggest grower, said Nurmala Abdul Rahim, head of a delegation of investors visiting the country.

The group has already visited Ivory Coast and Ghana, said Rahim, deputy Secretary-General of Malaysia's Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry.

``The structure of the cocoa industry in Malaysia is changing and right now, we have a lot of downstream activities, especially in grinding,'' Rahim said. ``We are exploring ways of getting more cocoa beans from west Africa.''

Cameroon is expected to produce 173,000 tons of cocoa in the 2007-2008 season, according to the International Cocoa Organization's Web site. The country ranks behind Ivory Coast, Ghana and Indonesia as the biggest grower of the commodity, which is used to make chocolate.

``We are here to understand more of the cocoa industry of Cameroon with the hope that we can buy more cocoa from Cameroon and explore the possibility of joint ventures,'' Raphim said. He didn't provide further details.

Malaysia, which produces about 35,000 tons of the beans, has the capacity to process 360,000 tons of cocoa, Hope Sona Ebai, president of Cameroon's Cocoa Producers Alliance, told reporters. Cameroon has one processing factory that can handle 40,000 tons, he said.

``Maybe there is room for exchange not only for Malaysia to purchase beans for their factories, but also to set up through joint ventures factories in Cameroon that can process and add value to the country's cocoa beans,'' Ebai said.

The Malaysian delegation, which has also visited Ivory Coast and Ghana, held talks with Cameroon's Trade Minister Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana and deputy Prime Minister Jean Nkuete.

``You are encouraged to look for possible avenues to establish joint ventures with Cameroonian partners to process cocoa here,'' Atangana said.


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