Monday, September 5, 2016

Summit sweetens emerging Bohol cacao industry

Some like their chocolates and sikwate sweet, some like theirs bitter; but everyone will like a sweeter, better cacao industry in Bohol as both government agencies and private organizations offer more and more initiatives pushing for its growth and expansion.

This was the consensus during the first Bohol Cacao Summit and Exposition, on Friday, the 2nd of September 2016 at the Kew Hotel this city, which gathered more than 95 cacao stakeholders from Bohol, Manila, Samar, Cagayan de Oro and Dumaguete.

Comprised of representatives from government agencies from the provincial and regional levels, cacao exporters, cacao farmers, cacao researchers, chocolatiers, and cacao enthusiasts, the summit participants converged to listen to inspirational and educational talks by industry experts, network with other industry players, and unite as one Bohol Coalition of Advocates and Cacao Growers (CaCAO).

Discussions at the summit ran the gamut of the cacao production value chain process, including chocolate production.

Christopher L. Fadriga, National President of the Plantacion de Sikwate (PDS) Cacao Producers Association, Inc., the cacao research and development, and advocacy group initiated by the Brothers of the Sacred Heart of Davao City, gave an overview on cacao farming from soil treatment, nursery, propagation and cultural management, pest management and post-harvest.

His colleague, Melencio G. Santos, PDS Board of Directors Vice President, then presented their plan for a proposed cacao nursery in Bohol, which shall be operated by a PDS Bohol Chapter. Mr. Santos pointed out that planning what cacao variety to propagate in Bohol is essential as quality trumps quantity in the cacao industry. “Start right”, he advised.

While cacao planting is not new to Bohol, as backyard cacao trees and the making of tableya and drinking of sikwate has been a Boholano fixture since the rule of the Spanish, who brought these ‘food for the gods’ from the Americas into the country via the galleon trade, the so-called ‘cacao industry’ in the province is still in its inception stage.

Despite the presence of major international cacao exporter Kennemer Foods International, Inc. in Carmen town, Bohol still only accounts for perhaps a fraction of 1% of the cacao production in the country. Davao Region owns the lion share (80%) of the multimillion dollar Philippine cacao production; rest of Mindanao produces the other 10%, while Luzon and Visayas combined, claim the remaining 10%.

Currently, Bohol’s own cacao consumption cannot be met by our own production. Dalareich Polot, chocolatier and CEO of Ginto Luxury Chocolates, says she has to import cacao beans from Davao to meet her company’s and the family business’ (Dalareich Food Products) cacao needs. Ms. Polot staunchly advocates for more cacao production in Bohol. There is not only a growing demand of cacao globally, but also in Bohol itself.

This concurs with the advice of Plantacion de Sikwate’s Melencio Santos for Bohol to not only plant and export seeds, but, as much as possible, keep the seeds in Bohol, not only for Bohol’s own consumption, but to add value to these by creating cacao by-products in the province itself before exporting them to other provinces and out of the country.

For his part, Rene Pamintuan, President of Natural Farmers Institute of the Philippines and CEO of Bayside Transport and Logistics Corporation, presented the stark realities of Philippine logistics. Logistics, the management of the flow of things between the point of origin and point of consumption, is an oft-omitted topic but is very crucial as it could account for nearly 50% of business expenses. While there are very few international ports in the Philippines, Bohol can take advantage of the neighboring Cebu international port (the only export port in Visayas), Pamintuan offered.
Other speakers included Prof. Jose T. Travero and Dr. Marina A. Labonite from the Bohol Island State University (BISU) – Bilar (Cacao Pests and Diseases), Eric L. Albano, Area Manager of Kennemer Foods (Fermentation/ Exportable Standards of Quality Cacao Beans), Vina Antopina, chocolatier and Assistant Provincial Director of DOST-Bohol (Understanding the Chocolate Industry), and Nelia T. Navarro of DTI Region 7 (Understanding the Cacao Enterprise).

To cap the event and encourage more cacao industry players in Bohol, representatives from the First Consolidated Bank (FCB) Plantacion de Sikwate, the Department of Agriculture (DA), Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Agriculture Training Institute (ATI), Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the Provincial Government of Bohol (PGBh) paraded the many programs and support services (financing and technical backing, among others) that their organizations offer to existing and incoming Bohol Cacao Growers.
Provincial Administrator Alfonso ‘Ae’ R. Damalerio, representing Bohol Governor Edgar M. Chatto, committed full support to the Bohol cacao industry.

The first Bohol Cacao Summit and Exposition was organized by the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), its Agriculture Committee, in particular (chaired by Ms. Efrenia C. Holt),  in cooperation with the Provincial Government of Bohol, Department of Trade and Industry Bohol, Department of Science and Technology Bohol, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education Bohol Division, Bohol Island State University Bilar Campus, Plantacion De Sikwate, Atbang Farm, Ginto Chocolates, and the Bohol Bee Farm.

Similar fora and meetings held here before lumped cacao with other Bohol products such as coffee and ubi. This first business sector –initiated cacao-concentrated summit promises a bright outlook for the Bohol cacao industry as aims to realize the summit theme “Bohol Cacao Growers: From Bohol to the World”. 

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