Vijayawada: Forget Cadbury and Nestle, Andhra Pradesh will spread sweetness by its own brand of chocolates.

Thanks to the Horticulture department, which is all set to expand the cocoa cultivation in the state.

Over 5,000 hectares of land will be brought under cocoa cultivation every year in Andhra Pradesh. It follows heavy demand for exotic cocoa from the chocolate firms.

Cocoa was introduced in Andhra Pradesh as an inter-crop in coconut gardens in the 1990s. It was first introduced in the East Godavari district. Seven years later West Godavari district was brought under cocoa cultivation. After the experiment was successful, cocoa cultivation was introduced in other coastal districts too.

West Godavari district is slowly becoming a cocoa growing hub in the state with more and more farmers showing interest in cultivating the exotic crop. Around 20,595 hectares of land are under cocoa cultivation in West Godavari district. Cocoa plantations in the district are major suppliers of coca to famous chocolate firms.

Horticulture Commissioner, Chiranjiv Chowdhary said that Andhra Pradesh is the major producer of cocoa in the country.

Official figures reveal that the annual production of cocoa beans has touched 8155 metric tonnes in the state. Over 28,375 hectares of land is under cocoa cultivation in nine districts of the state. Each hectare produces 850 kilograms of cocoa beans in the state.

"We plan to increase the area under cocoa cultivation in the state by 5,000 hectares every year. Andhra Pradesh is the largest grower of cocoa in the country. Along with Kerala, it contributes 75 percent of the total production of cocoa beans," he said.

The horticulture department has identified some youth in Andhra Pradesh for bean-to-bar programme where they would be provided training and financial support to establish Chocolate units as a cottage industry. Soon, Andhra Pradesh will have its own brand of chocolates on the lines of Ooty of Tamil Nadu

Experts said the quality of cocoa beans in Andhra Pradesh at par with Ghana, which produces the world's best quality beans.

Farmers in West Godavari supply cocoa to Mondelez India. Some more chocolate firms are in line to procure cocoa from Andhra Pradesh.

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