Paquibato farmer is finalist in 2019 International Cocoa Awards in Paris

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 August) — Jose Saguban, a farmer from Kialaw, Malabog in Paquibato District, Davao City, will compete with 49 other farmers from all over the world for the prestigious 2019 International Cocoa Awards (ICA) during the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris, France on October 30 after his beans were selected as one of the top 50 cocoa beans out of the 223 samples from 55 countries.

Saguban’s entry was the only one to make the cut out of the five bean samples from the Philippines. The farmer supplies beans to Auro Chocolate, a maker of fine dark chocolates.

Cacao farmer Jose Saguban of Paquibato District in Davao City, will compete with 49 other farmers from all over the world for the prestigious 2019 International Cocoa Awards (ICA) during the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris, France on October 30. Photo courtesy of Department of Agriculture Davao Region

On its Facebook post on Saturday, Auro Chocolate said it has been helping Saguban and other members of the Paquibato Tree Developers Cooperative with new farm techniques to achieve better quality, mentoring them on the fermentation protocols. The company helped prepare and sponsored Saguban to join the competition.

“We’d like to thank all of our farming partners for working tirelessly to improve quality and not just put the Philippines on the map for cacao beans but for showing the world, we can make gold,” the company said.

Valente Turtur, Executive Director of the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao (CIDAMI) on Sunday said this new development will “give premium price to the cacao beans not only in Davao but also in the Philippines,” and catapult the brand of Davao chocolate as a premium brand.

Turtur said five samples — two from Compostela Valley, two from Calinan District and one from Paquibato District – were sent to Paris at six kilos per entry last February.

He said Saguban was one of the project beneficiaries of CIDAMI in Paquibato District.

“He learned best practices in cacao farming from our series of trainings five years ago and continues to adopt the practice until now,” he said.

He said CIDAMI and Department of Agriculture will assist to bring Saguban to Paris to receive the recognition.

Cocoa of Excellence

All the bean samples were subject to physical quality and sensory evaluation from February until June and flavor sensory evaluation of cocoa liquor by the Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) technical committee from July to August.

The entries from the Philippines were all winners of the Philippine National Cacao Industry Council’s National Cacao Award System, established to select the best cacao beans that will represent the country in the international competition, Turtur said.

According to CoEx, the ICA is a global competition recognizing the work of cocoa farmers and celebrating the diversity of cocoa flavors, and is spearheaded by Bioversity International and Event International to recognize “quality, flavor and diversity of cocoas according to their origin.”

The best 50 samples, which will be processed into chocolate, will undergo another stage of flavor sensory evaluation by the CoEx technical committee and a broader panel of professionals. Out of 50 finalists, the CoEx will select 15 to 20 winners.

The winners, including the finalists, will be showcased at the Salon Du Chocolat, which will gather 500 participants from 60 countries, including over 200 renowned chefs and pastry chefs.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s production level in the country had reached only 7,983 MT in 2018, 81% of which came from Davao Region.

From 2008 to 2018, the data also showed that the production had only grown by 2,834 MT or 55.04%. Philippines’ cacao production is insignificant compared to one million MT a year from Ivory Coast, 800,00 MT from Ghana, and 400,000 MT from Indonesia, Turtur said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)