(Bloomberg) -- Barry Callebaut AG is investing in cocoa farming as prices for the key chocolate ingredient soars, squeezing profits for confectioners.

The Swiss chocolatier is working with farms in Brazil and Ecuador to “pilot and develop best practices in order to create a scalable and profitable high-tech model for sustainable cocoa farming,” the company said in a Thursday press release. 

The approach comes as a severe cocoa shortage has spurred record-high prices and put the spotlight on years of chronic underinvestment in key West African countries, which has hampered farmers’ ability to fend off disease and weather risks.

Read More: Chocolate Is Pricier Everywhere as Cocoa Pods Rot in West Africa

The Future Farming Initiative aims “to be a catalyst for others to invest in farming and create partnerships with farmers to modernize sustainable cocoa farming at scale,” the company said in a press release.

Barry Callebaut has signed an initial agreement to work with a farming business in Bahia, Brazil, to develop 5,000 hectares of land. The company’s 640-hectare property in Ecuador’s Cerecitas Valley will also be part of the initiative, according to the release.

Read More: Andurand’s Bet Shows Allure of Trading Wild Cocoa Markets

Steven Retzlaff, currently president of global cocoa, will become FFI’s executive chairman and report to CEO Peter Feld. Alain Freymond will become the new president of global cocoa.

“I am convinced that with FFI, we will not only bring cocoa farming to industrial levels, but we will also help make sustainable cocoa the norm,” Retzlaff said in the press release.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.