By Carmelito Q. Francisco
DAVAO CITY — Domestic processors of cacao, some of which are operated by farmers themselves, have propped up bean prices, offering a safety net for growers at a time of fluctuating global prices for the commodity.
Valente D. Turtur, Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, Inc. (CIDAMI) executive director, said while the world market price for cacao has been volatile, farmers “have been enjoying better prices” because of the increasing number of processors buying their harvest directly.
“This is the product of us going around the country promoting value adding for cacao. In processing chocolates, (farmer-)processors will earn three times than selling beans. We hosted a series of chocolate-making sessions” with the aid of foreign chocolate buyers, Mr. Turtur said at the media forum Habi at Kape.
In Davao City, he said, there are now about 70 processors who have become the main buyers of cacao beans.
Farmers, meanwhile, have organized 15 cooperatives to strengthen their negotiating position and to collectively move towards industry growth.
“We empower them in terms of market and price negotiation… We are trying to avoid too many middle men by empowering cacao farmers through a series of seminars on price management and improving productivity, and we encourage them to organize to improve volume of production,” Mr. Turtur said.
CIDAMI and other cacao stakeholders have also been pushing now for quality and gradual upgrades rather than rapid expansion.
“We are in that direction now,” he said.
Mr. Turtur said raising the volume of the harvest has been difficult given the crop’s five-year gestation period as well as the needed interventions.
The government has set a production goal of 100,000 metric tons (MT) by 2022, which has been adjusted from the original target year of 2020.
Total cacao output as of 2016, based on Philippine Statistics data, was only 6,263 MT. of this, 5,073 came from the Davao Region.
The CIDAMI official acknowledged the increase in government assistance to the industry in the form of planting materials and other farm implements, but said the target volume will still take longer to achieve.
Three government agencies — the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture, and the Philippine Coconut Authority — have distributed about 70 million seedlings in the last two years, he said.
“We just need to find ways to make our quality better and ensure that both foreign and local buyers will continue to patronize us,” he said, noting that niche markets for high-quality beans with “complex flavors” are becoming a more important income source.
“Slowly we are able to convince both local and international buyers that we have better beans,” Mr. Turtur said in a separate interview with BusinessWorld.
One example, he said, was a European trader who was ready to buy up to 200 MT a day.
“But we don’t have that kind of volume, so we told him to give us more time to reach that kind of production… This Czech trader is consolidating cacao beans from all over the world to supply the European market,” he said.
In the meantime, the cacao industry is also aiming to grow support from local consumers.
CIDAMI will be joining the Davao Agri Trade Expo 2018 through the Chocolate Festival on Sept. 22, where more than 20 chocolate brands from Davao City will be showcased.
“We want the public to know of the capacity of the cacao industry to engage in the global market,” Mr. Turtur said.
The Kakao Konek 2018, the biggest annual industry gathering, will also be held in Davao City on Oct. 18-20. — with a report from Maya M. Padillo