At the opening of this year's International Cocoa Research Conference in Kota Kinabalu, Eastern Malaysia, the most important long-term message for the cocoa industry was reiterated by Hope Sona Ebai, the newly appointed secretary of the Cocoa Producers Alliance (Copal). Suffering from depressed prices, he stated that the industry needs more research and development to discover new products and benefit farmers worldwide.The products may not necessarily be produced from cocoa beans alone, he explained: "Cocoa beans may represent only 30% of the entire pods. [Currently] most of the materials, the pods and the juice are abandoned by producers." The depressed market value of cocoa is not simply due to the mechanics of supply and demand, Sona Ebai added. He pointed to the huge market glut as a reason for no signs of price increase; to the expected surplus of 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes this season, "you have to add the 1.3bn tonnes of stocks that are already there. So before the 2000/2001 cocoa season starts, the industry already has five months of supply." The chief minister for the Sabah region, Osu Sukam, added that the industry was no longer an estate based sector but now more a smallholder activity and that "it is important that the appropriate technology be adopted among the smallholders to ensure that their productivities would reach maximum levels."The six-day conference is the 13th of its kind, and attempts to showcase the genetic, agronomic and technological potential of cocoa. The input of nearly 200 exhibitors from around the world will, hopes Sona Ebai, "help us move forward as a global industry."