US chocolate group Hershey has confirmed plans designed to help its Mexican cocoa suppliers quadruple yields over the next five years.

“The current yield in Chiapas is around 250 kg per hectare. We believe this project can quadruple the yield to 1,000 kg per hectare over the next five years.  For farmers who follow the full renovation plan and follow the program, we believe yields up to 1,500 kg hectare are possible,” a spokesperson for the group told just-food.

In partnership with Ecom, the US based company has established 17 demonstration farms to provide training, initially targeting 700 farmers – but with the potential to extend the programme further. In order to do this, the spokesperson said the company is considering opening as many as 100 demonstration farms over the next ten years.

“We will also teach farmers some agro economics around fertilization, pest control and labour.”

Hershey is providing farmers involved in the programme with disease-tolerant cocoa plants, the spokesperson added.

Hershey said it hopes the move will help promote a stable, sustainable and high-quality cocoa supply that can feed into its Mexican business.

A sustainable supply of high-quality domestic cocoa that is produced from thriving cocoa communities that we and other companies can use in products that are made and sold in Mexico, the spokesperson said.

“We currently use cocoa from Mexico for production at our El Salto plant. The cocoa from the project will also be used in the chocolate we make at this plant for sale domestically. Our hope is to use a greater percentage of domestic cocoa from the farmers who participate in this project,” the spokesperson said.

The programme is part of the Hershey 21st Century Cocoa Plan, which was announced in March. Earlier this week, the company also revealed plans to help double cocoa production in Nigeria