Belgian chocolate-makers in for cocoa treat

Business

EAST Sepik Governor Allan Bird says the provincial assembly will be meeting Belgian investors interested in the province’s cocoa sector.
Bird told The National that the immediate plans were to replace cocoa trees with those that were resistant to the cocoa pod borer, and looking at ways to increase production.
“At one point, East Sepik produced about 15,000 metric tonnes annually. With the cocoa pod borer, we are down to about 8000 metric tonnes now,” Bird said.
“There are 23 clones resistant to the cocoa pod borer and they are now in various places in East Sepik. What the provincial government needs to do is replace all the cocoa tress destroyed by the pod borer. That means a complete overhaul in East Sepik.
“Once that is done, we should be back to a minimum of 15,000 metric tonnes annually.
“I also want to upgrade the skills of the farmers and introduce better farm management and process management.
“I believe that East Sepik can go up to 50,000 tonnes on its own.”
Some major chocolate manufacturers arriving next month are interested in doing some processing of cocoa in East Sepik.
“With the increased tonnage, they will be very interested.  If that happens I hope to secure steady prices for our growers in East Sepik over 20 to 30 years,” Bird said.
“I want them to take over the extension work where they work directly with the farmers for quality control, farm management and all of that.
“The chocolate manufacturers also want to change from wood fuel to the solar drier.
“The chocolate manufacturers are from Belgium.
“And through this partnership, Sepik cocoa should enter directly onto the European market and the chocolate capital of the world, Belgium.”

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