To lure more farmers to take advantage of the high marketing potentials of cacao in the global trade, and to empower existing local growers to be responsive to the growing demand for cacao, the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) continuously conducts trainings and distributes grafted cacao planting materials.

Recently, the Institutional Development Unit (IDU) of DA Bicol under the Field Operations Division, conducted two batches of Training on Cacao Production and Processing Technology cum Good Agricultural Practices in Nabua, Camarines Sur on May 11-12 and May 26-27, 2021. Forty farmer leaders from the municipalities in Camarines Sur participated in the two batches of training.

Ellen Villareal, Unit Head of IDU which conducts the said trainings said that participants were taught on cacao production and processing, and basic principles of GAP to prepare them to be GAP compliant;.Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez, Chief of the Field Operations Division and regional coordinator of the High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) said that from 2013-2020, the DA Bicol distributed a total of 1,659,560 pieces of cacao seedlings to Bicolano farmers and were planted in some 3,319 hectares.

Batches of hands on training (GAP) on sustainable cacao production were also conducted in the past, and techno demo sites for cacao rehabilitation through fertilization were established, where 6,500 old cacao trees were fertilized or rehabilitated.

The four agencies, DA, DENR, DAR, and PCA distributed a combined total of 4,492,750 pieces of cacao seedlings which were planted in a total area of 9,073 hectares regionwide from 2013-2020, according to Dr. Rodriguez’s report. The DENR distributed 1,859,000 pieces of cacao seedlings; DAR- 224,190 pieces; and the Philippine Coconut Authority – 750,000 pieces.

Dr. Rodriguez said further that a total of P41 M worth of HVCDP package were given to 4,879 cacao growers in Bicol as of December 2020. Based on the data gathered by the HVCDP from the LGUs, a total of 1,660 hectare of cacao are under coconut: Albay (564 hectares), Camarines Sur (481 hectares), Sorsogon (315 hectares), Masbate (116), Catanduanes (100 hectares), and Cam. Norte (88 hectares).

The 2017-2022 Philippine Cacao Industry Roadmap spearheaded by the DA and DTI aims to achieve a national output of 100,000 MT fermented beans of cacao in 2022. Recommended varieties include K2, BR 25, PBC 123, K9 and UF-18. The Bicol region’s commitment is to produce 3,000 MT of cacao by 2022 to contribute 3% to the national output. Bicol’s production in 2019 was 39 MT which accounted for less than 1% of the national production of 8,488.6 MT.

Based on the Phil cacao industry forum report, the global demand for cacao in 2020 was estimated between 4.7 million to 5 million MT, but a cocoa shortage is also predicted at 1million MT. The Philippines alone consume 50,000 MT annually while the local supply is said to be somewhere between 10,000 to 15,000 MT (source: guide for cacao).

Big associations of cacao growers in Bicol such as the Albay Pili and Cacao Industry Association (APCIA) and the Bicol Cacao Growers Association in Camarines Sur have already benefitted from DA program on cacao. Cacao processing facilities and fermentation facilities were given to APCIA based in Cabangan, Camalig, Albay; Mayon Farmers Association of Sua, Camalig, Albay; Binanuaanan Farmers Community Development Association, Inc. in Pili, Cam. Sur and Tigaon Native Cacao Growers and Processors Assn. also in Cam. Sur.

The DA ensures that farmers do not only receive grafted cacao seedlings, processing facilities and IEC materials or cacao production guides, but also train them to be equipped on Good Agricultural Practices to help them become more competitive and successful entrepreneurs. There is also the Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Division which links farmers to buyers.As chocolates have the capability to arouse sensory pleasure and “feel good” chemicals or endorphins, the Philippine cacao industry would hopefully lure more farmers to engage in cacao production as it has great economic potential and is on the upward trend. (Lovella P. Guarin / RAFIS 5)