Groups conduct study on cacao farming to improve production

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/11 September) — Champions of the cacao industry in Mindanao have started a four-year comprehensive research on cacao nutrition in a bid to improve the quality and production.

During the Kakao Konek 2015 at the SMX Convention Center at SM Lanang Premier on Friday, Cacao Industry Development Association in Mindanao Inc. (CIDAMI) executive director Valente Turtur said the findings of the study will serve as guidelines for the farmers.

Some 600 guests from all-over the Philippines joined in the two-day congress.

The study has a budget of $250,000 from US-based fertilizer firm Universal Harvester in partnership with CIDAMI and ACDI-VOCA, a nongovernment organization.

The International Plant Nutrition Institute will do the study, which includes soil analysis to determine the minerals best suited for cacao.

CIDAMI has tapped five demo farms for this study. It will examine which among the farms classified as organic, synthetic, and combination of organic and inorganic will give higher yield and better quality.

Each demo farm measures 100 square meters with 35 to 50 trees each.

Citing cacao firms who buy roasted beans from the region, Turtur said Davao has the best quality cacao in the country, which he attributed to the mineral-packed volcanic soil where the trees grow.

“We have done mapping for the research. Initially, this will be implemented in the region but eventually this will be applied nationwide,” he said. “We will know what nutrition is best for the soil.”

Members of the National Cacao Industry Cluster Technical Working Group, comprised of cacao stakeholders from public and private sectors, also took oath on Friday.

The technical working group, Turtur added, will revisit the policies concerning cacao in the Philippines.

He said it is the Davao Region that first adopted the Cacao Industry Roadmap that was only finalized last year but the National Industry Cacao Cluster is planning to replicate this in other regions that produce cacao.

The Philippines is targeting to produce 100,000 metric tons of roasted cacao beans by 2020, a challenge posed by the world’s leading chocolate maker Mars. But following an increasing global demand for the crop, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) increased the target to 200,000 metric tons through its “Double Up” program in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture.

Some P500 million will be allocated for cacao farmers in Mindanao for next year under the program. Around P169 million will come from MinDA while the rest will come from DA.

More budget is expected in 2016 as other government agencies such as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agrarian Reform and Philippine Coconut Authority will pour in some amount for the program.

The global market price for cacao is P135 to P140 a kilo while local price ranges from P110 to P125 a kilo.

But there are domestic companies who are willing to pay 30-percent higher than the global market price for roasted cacao. These are Manila-based Pilipinas Oro de Cacao and WL Foods.

The country has a demand of 50,000 metric tons of roasted cacao annually but it can only produce around 10,000 metric tons a year, with 70 to 80 percent coming from the region.

But if the industry achieves surplus production by 2020, farmers will be encouraged to export since the global market offers higher prices despite fluctuations in prices. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)