Some 25,000 farmers in Mindanao will be equipped with skills and new technologies to produce high-quality cacao beans that are acceptable to the international market. Party of Agricultural Cooperative Development International/Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA)–a private, nonprofit organization that promotes broad-based economic growth — will use the proceeds of the US$ 5.4 million funds awarded to it by the US Department of Agriculture in transfering the skills and new technologies to cacao farmers.
Nic K. Richards, ACDI/VOCA chief, said during the recent launching of CoCoPAL Integrated Farming System Project here that the amount granted to the project would be monetized to produce 13,200 metric tons of high-quality cocao beans. Richards said they will use the proceeds over a three-year period to improve the capacity of smallholder farmers in targeted Mindanao provinces.
The project was dubbed as CoCoPal, deficting cocoa, coconut and the Palayamanan concept of rice-based diversified farming. It hopes to improve the income and food security of the farmers including a total of 15,000 indirect beneficiaries.
Richards said that initially, the project targeted eight provinces and two cities from Western Mindanao and Southern Mindanao namely Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga City, Basilan, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Davao City and Compostela Valley Province.
He said the demand for cacao was high as developed countries like Europe and the US were looking at Southeast Asia for sourcing their supply.
Most ot these countries source out their beans supply of 250,000 tons annually from Africa. But the risk of having a steady supply is highly vulnerable to political instability, drought and expensive freight cost, compared to the Philippines where shipping cost could be lower than in other African countries.
Shipping cost in Africa could reach about US$ 100 per ton of beans. He said the concept here is to train the farmers on good production and processing techniques and link them to a value chain approach and become micro entrepreneurs. Under the project, there will be 250 trained CoCoPal extension facilitators assisting the farmers.
There will also be 75 Village Technology and Extension Farms (VTEF), a one stop innovative learning sites to be managed by the different farmer-groups.
The project will also include the putting in of 150 post harvest facilities around Mindanao from small to medium- scale such as bamboo-type solar dryer to kiln dryer and the semi-industrial using new technology and innovation.
Richards said the organization had similar project here in 2006 and the farmer-participants were already shipping cacao beans to the international market. In the last six months, the farmers posted a first shipment of 100 tons of quality cacao beans from farms in Calinan, Davao City and San Isidro, Davao Oriental.
Richards also said the organization will link the farmers to the market of companies that have big demand for cacao. Meanwhile, Richards said the other project of ACDI/VOCA is the Sustainable Cocoa Enterprise Solution for Smallholders (SUCCESS).
He said Alliance Philippines Project Phase II is also a project of ACDI/VOCA that also received funding support from the USDA.
It is in partnership with the Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines (CocoaPhil), World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) and MARS, Incorporated, a worldwide manufacturer of confectionery, pet food and other food products.
Fay Fay Choo, commercial manager of MARS Inc. said the company is looking at the Philippine production of 100,000 metric tons of cacao beans in 2020 valued at US$ 300 million.
“We are optimistic that the Philippines can deliver that is why we did not hesitate to set up the MARs Cocoa Development Center in partnership with the Sunset Farms in Malagos, Calinan, Davao City,” she said.
She said MARS is a US$ 28-billion business that operates in six basic segments, including chocolate. The company has 65,000 associates in over 250 locations with 135 factories in 68 countries worldwide, she said.
“Our headquarter is in McLean, Virginia, USA and our chocolate brands are M&M’s, Snickers, Dove, Galaxy, Mars, Milky Way, Twix and Bountry,” she said. For Bountry, she said we see a huge growth potential including the desiccated coconut, which is an important ingredient for this production aside from cocoa.
The Philippines, she said, could tap this and see a year- on-year growth of two to three percent. “I know the Philippines can deliver total quality beans to the world market because it has good planting material, great soil and skilled farmers. When cacao is properly nurtured it produces aroma and there is premium in the aroma,” she said. (PNA) RMA/Prix Digna D. Banzon/lvp