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Program using cocoa trees to restore Amazon forest to be expanded

FILE PHOTO: A cocoa tree bearing fruit is seen in a plantation in a farm in Medicilandia, Para state, Brazil, March 19, 2018. REUTERS/Marcelo Texeira/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A program that uses cocoa plantations, in combination with other types of trees, to guarantee income to the local population while restoring lost Amazon forest cover in Brazil will be expanded, the organization behind the project said on Wednesday.

Environmental group Conservation International said the program will grow to 1.250 hectares in the Brazilian Amazon in 2020, a 150% increase from its current size.

New cocoa plantations, particularly when implemented with other native trees, can play a role on helping to restore lost vegetation. And since they are perennial crops, those plantations would suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for many years.

Families taking part in the program can access credit lines at participating financial institutions.

Organizers said they receive technical support to implement new producing areas, as well as a commitment to have their production bought by partners, such as commodities trader Olam International OLAM.SI and chocolate maker Mondelez International MDLZ.O, at a premium over regular market prices.

Current plantations already taking part in the initiative are located in Sao Felix do Xingu and Tucumã, in the southeast part of Amazon’s Pará state.

Reporting by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by David Gregorio