By Philippines News Agency
PALO, Leyte — Driven by the increasing demand for chocolate, the Department of Agriculture (DA) will embark on a massive expansion of cacao plantations in Eastern Visayas starting next year.
Regional agriculture office executive director, Wilson Cerbito, said he is eyeing a 5,000-metric ton (mt) production of cacao beans in the next six years, which will account for 5 percent of the target national output.
Next year, 1.5 million cacao seedlings will be distributed to farmers in the region for planting in 5,000 hectares.
“We don’t want to see a very low survival rate of cacao trees after planting. There will be support services. We will not give seedlings unless farmlands are prepared and farmers are well-trained,” Cerbito said.
In the past two years, the agriculture department has distributed 600,000 seedlings in the region, but only less than half survived due to poor farm management.
Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao Inc. executive director Valente Turtur said that cacao trees are not like coconut trees, which bear fruit even without proper cultivation.
Turtur noted that there is a good market in Leyte alone for cacao beans since some ‘tablea’ makers here get their raw supply from the Davao region.
“The country is only producing 10,000 mt to 12,000 mt of cacao beans every year, but our demand is 50,000 mt,” he added.
Industry players said cacao is a good alternative for coconut. Traders buy wet cacao beans at PHP40 per kg., higher than copra’s price of PHP30 per kg. Dried cacao beans fetch PHP130 to PHP150 per kg.
During a forum last week, more than 500 cacao planters, traders and other stakeholders gathered in the first regional industry forum as Eastern Visayas accepted the challenge to raise local cacao bean production to 5,000 mt by 2022.
The gathering signals the acceptance of the national challenge to produce 100,000 mt of cacao nationwide by 2022, with 5 percent coming from the region.
The cacao industry roadmap aims to expand cacao cultivation from the current estimated 300 hectares to 5,000 hectares after six years.
Cacao trees produce cacao beans, a main ingredient in making chocolate.
According to the agriculture department, the global demand for cacao beans is expected to reach between 4.7 million and 5 million mt by 2022, and global deficit supply is at 1 million mt.
This looming deficit has given rise to the Philippine Cacao Challenge, which targets the production of 100,000 mt by the year 2022 and onwards.