Sarangani eyed for cacao contract-growing

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/22 October) — A top cacao producer is eyeing Sarangani Province as potential expansion area for its thriving contract-growing operations.

Sarangani Gov. Steve Chiongbian Solon said top executives of Kennemer Foods International (KFI) Inc. visited the province recently to explore the possibility of developing cacao plantations as part of the company’s continuing expansions in parts of Mindanao.

He said company president Simon Bakker, in a meeting at the provincial capitol in Alabel town, initially acknowledged the province as a viable area for the production of cacao.

“We specifically discussed the promising benefits of growing cacao in Sarangani,” the governor said.

Based on earlier studies made by the local government, Solon said cacao is one of the perennial crops with a relatively short gestation period that is suitable in the province.

He said it can be planted with other crops or intercropped and could provide stable income for farmers with its sure market.

“We will be taking Bakker around the province for an ocular visit of the potential sites,” Solon said.

The Philippines, as a whole, has been declared ideal for cacao due to soil composition and climatic conditions.

The country’s cacao production is currently pegged at around 6,000 to 8,000 tons a year, the provincial government noted.

KFI is a producer and marketer of food and agricultural products. It specializes in growing and trading of high-quality agricultural crops, especially fermented cacao beans.

The company has been offering a long-term growing program for farmers in parts of the country who are interested in planting cacao.

Under its contract-growing program, KFI said farmers are provided with planting material, inputs, training, on-going supervision and consulting and a guaranteed buy-back of the harvest at a price linked to the world price.

“We are committed to rural development by promoting market transparency, providing fair value pricing for produce and the implementation of sustainable farming practices. Our products and programs encompass complete agricultural value-chain from planting materials, training, agri-technology to market,” KFI said.

Last year, a group of Australian and Filipino investors signified to develop parts of the coastal town of Glan in Sarangani Province as production area for export-quality cocoa.

PlantAsian Agro-Forestry Systems Inc. cited that the area is considered viable for coconut and cacao (cocoa) intercropping.

The Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) is currently promoting the massive planting of cacao in Mindanao due to its increasing demand in the local and international markets.

By 2016, it said cacao will have a local demand of 28,268 metric tonnes and could provide employment to 88,337 rural folks in Mindanao.

MinDA has set a target to plant cacao in 100,000 hectares of land across the island in the next few years by intercropping it with the two million hectares of coconut farms to help boost the dwindling global supply. (MindaNews)