Davao Norte's cacao industry gets boost

Subscribe Now March 28, 2011 at 02:04pm

CACAO is an important source of income for small farmers in the countryside.

Lately, demand for cacao beans has increased. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has reported that Mars Inc. in the United States is interested in the country’s cacao beans. To meet the strong demand for cacao, DA expects that this year's cacao production will produce 10,000 to 15,000 metric tons and by 2016, cacao bean production is expected to hit 75,000 to 100,000 metric tons.

In Southern Mindanao, the town of San Isidro in Davao del Norte has been dubbed as the cacao capital of the country where numerous farmers are earning from cacao production.

"Out of the 15,000 hectares agricultural lands, 4,000 hectares are devoted to cacao production," said Rene Pintor, San Isidro's municipal agriculturist.

Pintor is optimistic that bright prospects await the local cacao industry as it has a recognized reputation as major producer of cacao not only in the region but the entire country.

"Lately, we have foreign visitors from US and Europe exploring the possibilities for San Isidro to supply materials for cocoa and chocolate production," Pintor said.

Although there is huge potential for their local cacao industry, Pintor noted that much needs to be done to meet the required volume and improve its quality.

With this, the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) has poured in investments to improve cacao production among smallholder farmers in the community.

MRDP program director Lealyn Ramos said cacao production can be an effective poverty alleviation tool for numerous farmers in the region and could be a viable source of income without disrupting the existing crop or tree crop activities.

Through the Community Fund for Agricultural Development (CFAD), MRDP's livelihood component, three farmer cooperatives received a check of P250,000 for expansion of cacao production in the area.

"The assistance was used to provide quality planting materials particularly UF18 and BR25 varieties which are known to produce bigger beans and also less susceptible to pests and diseases," agricultural technician Alberto Arangis said.

A total of 38 members availed themselves of at least 200 cacao seedlings each. Aside from planting materials, the members also availed themselves of fertilizers and other farm inputs.

Bernardino Intig, board member of the Mabuhay Farmers’ Multipurpose Cooperative (MFMC) said their cooperative is now producing at last 30 sacks per month of 50-60 kilos per sack.

Intig said farmers in their cooperative are selling their produce to Chocolate de San Isidro (CSI) a confederation of cacao farmers' cooperative of which MFMC is a member.

CSI consolidates the cacao produce and sells it to bigger market in Davao City. In consolidating the cacao produced in San Isidro, CSI can maintain the volume required by its regular market.

"At present, our cooperative (MFMC) cannot yet supply the volume requirements of big markets. So, we join the CSI to help us in marketing our produce. In return our cooperative was allowed to buy stocks and eventually became one of its stockholders," Intig said.

Aside from meeting the required volume, local cacao farmers are also working on ensuring the quality of their beans. An improved post harvest practice puts premium on meeting the quality standards.

"Our cooperative maintains a mechanical dryer which keeps the quality of our harvested beans. It also provided us additional income as we charge P25 per sack of beans dried in our facility," Intig said.

Aware that much still needs to be done for small farmers like him to make it big in cacao production, Intig said their cooperative is working its way to meet not only the required volume and quality standard but also in providing their members more adequate facilities.

"We are thankful for MRDP in helping us expand our cacao production. Once the cacao we have planted will be in full bloom, our town will continue to live up to its name as the country’s cacao capital," he said.

Source: sunstar.com.ph



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