Bali is not only famous for its coffee but also for cocoa production. In 2020, cacao production in Bali sits around 4,951 tons a year with a productivity of 0.36 tons per hectare. However, this number is below the overall Indonesian productivity due to one of the biggest challenges faced by the cocoa industry, access to the market.
AgUnity engaged and deployed its digital solution to the Koperasi Manik Amerta Buana (MAB cocoa cooperative in Tabanan, a region that is one of the biggest producers of cocoa in Bali. AgUnity has worked previously with cocoa value chains in Sierra Leone, Trinidad, Tobago, and Papua New Guinea, and when engaging new communities such as this, value chain and business process scoping with the MAB Coop is necessary.
MAB coop is well known as one of the more well-established cocoa coops in Bali and they have experience working with AgUnity’s local partner in Bali, Kopernik. The MAB coop is striving to recover after being hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Both the coop staff and farmers are eager to gain new knowledge to support their work, not only about agriculture practices but also about technology.
This will be a great opportunity to work collaboratively with AgUnity as the farmers require innovative technology and capacity building to enhance business development. MAB coop officers and the farmers are very excited to use the AgUnity app and break away from the paper-based record transactions currently in use as they are difficult to track and require manual reporting. Currently, the coop officers need to open books physically held in an office in order to access their transaction history.
AgUnity thrives when building service setups that would be self-sustaining by the Coop officers and management for years to come.The training and deployment of the AgUnity digital solution at MAB was conducted at the end of June 2022 and had an enthusiastic and positive reception from the cacao farmers involved however, they are mindful that results may take two years to come into maximum effect.
AgUnity trained the coop officers and deployed 20 phones for both coop officers and the farmers with weekly handover activities. Currently, MAB has around 50 active members out of 600 registered farmer and total number of farmers in their region is estimated to be quite a lot more than that. MAB is optimistic that they can get more farmers into their membership base using AgUnity technology as the competitive advantage when compared to other Coop and farmers groups.
As the next step, MAB officers will identify and register more farmers and the AgUnity team will onboard them. A regular meeting will be held with the coop officers and the cocoa farmers to obtain feedback regarding the functionality of the application.
I Nyoman Suparman, the Head of MAB Cooperative, hopes that the AgUnity digital solution will support them when recording their transactions with the farmers and during the handover process to the buyer. The most important aspect is that all the coop officers can use the application and access the reporting function, removing any fears around data loss.
“We want a better system to record our transactions. If it is a manual record, then it can easily lose. It’s the same with store in the computer; if there is a virus or error in the system so our data will disappear”.
MAB was established at the beginning of 2019 and currently focuses only on cocoa. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic created a huge impact on their business. When the pandemic started, MAB kept on buying the cocoa beans although there were no buyers; but the farmers did not want the commodity wasted. The situation was made drastically worse when the cocoa factory that had partnered with MAB stopped its operations.
It was during this time that the Indonesian government also ruled on the Covid restrictions; coop officers could no longer buy cocoa directly from the farmers’ homes. This situation remained until the middle of 2021 however, as restrictions were lifted the coop officers started to buy the cocoa beans direct from the farmers again, albeit with the local government’s permission to hold the small farmer gatherings.
Nyoman said that the production of cocoa beans during the pandemic was high. On the other hand, there is no market to sell the product.
“I said to the farmers that in the meantime they can dry and store the cocoa beans in their house”. Even though this practice is not the most optimal as beans ideally are fermented before being dried, but at that moment, drying the cocoa beans right away prevents bigger losses.
At the beginning of 2022, MAB started to buy wet cocoa beans from the farmers who had started to ferment and dry the wet beans, making the process more regulated and quality assured as a group. MAB has a partnership with a bigger coop in another region and contributes to their export quota, mainly to France and other European countries.
Unfortunately, MAB does not have big storage facilities to keep the cocoa beans, they must hand over the cocoa beans regularly to their coop partner. Nyoman hopes that MAB can process the cocoa beans by themselves and can sell them in the market or to grocery stores. He also added his hope that MAB can work on other commodities in the future, like mangosteen, durian, and rice.