Note – the original map I included, was the wrong Seram Island in Indonesia – I didn’t think to check if there was more than one island with the same name. The correct island map is now below.

As demand for cacao rises throughout Asia, the long-term market for sustainably grown quality cacao is positive, and many believe Asia will soon become the second-largest consumer for cocoa products. This being the case, it may make commercial sense to be able to source the raw materials locally. Two of the biggest chocolate giants, Olam and Mondelēz have joined together to build a high-tech sustainable cacao farm on the island of Seram in Indonesia.

The location is an interesting choice since it is a quite remote island that may not immediately spring to mind as a candidate. However, both of the companies have been active in Indonesia for some years, and in the joint announcement, they explain that half the jobs created so far have gone to women – a demographic that is typically under-represented.

Both companies have existing cocoa sustainability programs, which this project can contribute to. Mondelēz has their Cocoa Life programme and Olam has the Cocoa Compass which you can read about on their sustainability page.

While Indonesia is the third-largest producer of cocoa, the country has never met its potential, with production under threat from ageing farmers and badly maintained trees. But this may now be set to change.

The 2,000-hectare farm will use climate-smart and plant science technology to optimize everything from irrigation to soil metrics. The current property was deforested and will be planted with a mixture of cacao trees, fruit trees, and shade trees in order to encourage a biodiverse landscape. More than 1,080 hectares have already been planted.

The joint press release says the partnership aims to deliver:

  • The creation of 700 jobs for local residents in an area which has limited income opportunities due to its isolated location. Nearly half of these employment opportunities will go to women.
  • 2,000 hectares of previously deforested brown field land, which will be planted with cocoa, shade trees, forest and fruit trees to promote biodiversity and carbon capture. More than 1,080 hectares have already been planted across the total plantation area of 3,380 hectares.
  • An area of 47 hectares which has been identified as High Conservation Value forest and is being fully protected as a vital habitat for flora and fauna.
  • A seedling nursery which can grow up to one million high-yielding cocoa seedlings each year.
  • Access to healthcare and education for all employees and their families, as well as housing, electricity, water, daycare for the 200 families who live on site.

Additionally, the High Conservation Value forest of 47 hectares will include a nursery which can grow ~1,000,000 cacao seedlings a year

As one of the world’s leading chocolate makers, we’re on a mission to make cocoa right and to secure a sustainable future for an ingredient essential to our business. With nine years of measurable impact demonstrating improved farmer’s livelihoods and reduced environmental impact of cocoa farming through our signature sustainable sourcing program, Cocoa Life, we’re excited to leverage our know-how in a collaborative approach to sustainable raw material sourcing with a geographically customized solution.

Creating opportunities to innovate, in partnership with our suppliers, and exploring the ability to scale high-yielding, forest-positive, income-generating approaches to commercial cocoa farming on the single largest farm of its kind offers attractive potential and is an important step forward on our journey to lead the future of a sustainable and resilient cocoa supply. This initiative sits alongside Mondelēz International’s existing Cocoa Life program in Indonesia and our cocoa crop science technical center in Pasuruan, established to support sustainable cocoa farming practices and drive positive change for farmers and communities in the region. – Quentin Roach, SVP Supply Chain & Chief Procurement Officer, Mondelēz International

OFI (Olam Food Ingredients) is one of the top three cacao processors in the world and is a leader in sustainable cacao production. More information about their sourcing can be found in the Cacao Compass program.

This could be truly game-changing for the future of cocoa in Indonesia and beyond. We would like to thank the regional and national governments of Indonesia for their support. Ever since we launched our first sustainability program in the country more than 16 years ago, we have been committed to supporting Indonesian cocoa farmers while also protecting the environment. We reaffirmed this commitment through our acquisition in 2019 of the country’s largest cocoa processor, BT Cocoa, to connect the full supply chain from cocoa beans to cocoa ingredients.

We’re now combining our expertise and knowledge with Mondelēz International, a steward of some of the world’s most iconic snack and chocolate brands. Having just announced the achievement of our 2020 sustainability goals, we believe this partnership is a further significant step towards our Cocoa Compass ambition to have a positive impact on the future of cocoa. – Gerard A. Manley, CEO of OFI’s Cocoa Business, comments

Hopefully, this new project stays true to the sustainability focus in terms of the environment and human rights. If all goes well, this project in Indonesia could lay the groundwork for other large players to become more sustainable.

An enormous market is brewing throughout Asia and the demand for cacao is likely to grow in the coming decades.


  1. I think you have the wrong Seram. Seram in Maluku province is much larger, but also rather more remote — to get there you\’d have to fly first from Makassar (normally possible from SG, KL, and a good number of major cities in Indoneisa) to Ambon, and then drive and ferry for a least a couple hours to get to Seram.

    I spent a couple months there working on a spice sector development project in 2012 and can\’t imagine the change this will bring to the island. It\’s sparsely populated so they\’ll have to import labor, but there certainly aren\’t 2000 ha of completely vacant land, so it would be interesting to see some reporting on the land acquisition and transformation process. Thankfully for Mondelez and Olam it\’s so remote that it probably won\’t happen…

    1. I think you’re right – I feel like the people that relied on google maps and drove off a cliff. Thank you and I’ll update the map.

  2. Ani Setiyoningrum

    Hi Nick, you tag wrong seram island in the article. The plantation location should be Seram island Maluku, the one shown in your map is somewhere near Lampung

    1. Hi, thanks for picking it up. Someone else did yesterday and we corrected it, but it might be the web page was cached and still showing the old version. I should be correct now. I hope!

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