BY CYRIL GARE
COCOA bean products from Papua New Guinea must meet accepted trade standards or suffer an entry ban into the world market within two years in 2020.
These include ICCO (International Cocoa Organization) standards agreed to under Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ Certifications of which PNG is a signatory.
Such a notice has been made known to all cocoa producing countries including PNG who currently accounts for only one percent – about 40,000 tonnes – of the world’s total cocoa supply but enjoys a 90 percent ‘fine flavor’ status.
Ten per cent of PNG cocoa is rejected as “smoke taints.” This marks a significant loss in revenue.
According to the cocoa calendar year ending 2015/16 issued by Cocoa Board of PNG (CBPNG), PNG exported 37,764 tonnes valued at K337,125 million in export earnings, making it one of the top three agricultural commodity earners in the country among coffee and oil palm.
CBPNG Chief Executive Officer Boto Gaupu said cocoa employs 2.5 million smallholder farmers.
Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) Secretary Dr. Vele Pat Ila’ava has been calling for “investing big in agriculture” because therein 85 percent of unskilled labour lies which can be utilized for wealth creation and poverty alleviation.
After four decades, the Government this year allocated more than K700 million in the agriculture sector, expecting it to be the “key driver” for economy recovery.
Over the last four years, the Government has invested some K37.6 million in various cocoa rehabilitation and innovative programs. With further assistance from its partners such as the World Bank (Productive Partnership in Agriculture Project (PPAP)), PHAMA (Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access Program), IFAD (International Food and Agriculture Development), and the EU (European Union), the Cocoa Board under the leadership of as the Chief Executive Officer Boto Gaupu was able to revamp the once “ailing” industry to life after taking office in 2012.
With the support of a new Board – which was put in place after an eight year lull – and guidelines under the Cocoa Industry Strategic Plan 2016-2025, CBPNG is adamant to meet the ICCO standards after rolling out a number of innovative projects such as:
Solar Combination driers: These driers use sun energy (solar) as well as wood to process cocoa beans. In this way ‘smoke taints’ are removed and quality dry beans are produced. In the long term, this approach will help improve PNG’s 10 per cent ‘smoke taint’ deficiency and achieve quality and fine flavor.
Clonal Nurseries and Bud Wood Gardens: The Cocoa Pod Borer (CPB) pest first struck in March, 2006 in Kerevat, ENB and later spread quickly to other parts of the country and decimated the cocoa industry big time. Production dropped from 45,948 tonnes from 2006/07 to 39,400 tonnes in 2009/10 with significant revenue loss.
Hence, clonal materials which are CPB tolerant were introduced. Clonal materials also have other advantages in that it matures fast (3 years) and produces high quality yields. Cocoa Board has identified the need to create two more regional clonal nurseries and bud wood gardens – one in the Sepik plains for the Momase region and one in Central for the Southern region. The existing clonal nursery and bud wood garden at Kerevat is stressed and unable meet the country’s growing demand for cocoa growing. The new nurseries are expected to hold 60,000 to 100,000 seedlings each.
There are 14 cocoa growing provinces in PNG and with the highlands provinces such as Simbu and Jiwaka joining the demand for cocoa planting materials is growing and national production output is expected to increase.
According to the National Agriculture Development Plan (NADP), the Government’s Development Strategic Plan (DSP), and the PNG Vision 2050, the Cocoa Board is expected to drive the cocoa production from 40,000 to 310,000 tonnes per annum by 2030 with anticipated revenue earning to reach K600-700 million annually.
District Cocoa Nursery Project: Initially six districts have signed MOAs to drive this program but this number has risen to more than 13 districts with the latest being Pomio. The district agreed with the Cocoa Board on a kina to kina MOA to grow three million cocoa trees over five years at an investment value of K6 million. Kavieng district signed prior to Pomio and work has commenced on Mussau Island. Other 12 districts include Yangoru/Saussia, Maprik, Madang, Middle Ramu, Kokopo, Gazelle, Markham, Sohe, Wewak, North Bougainville, Tewai/Siassi, and Aitape/Lumi. Special projects are also being conducted in Airara (Ijivitari district), Pomio, Rabaul, Bulolo, Huon Gulf, and Angoram districts respectively. The Milne Bay and West New Britain provincial governments have also signed MOAs with CBPNG for cocoa development.
In all, 66 main nurseries and 36 satellite nurseries are in place and operational. If all 13 District Cocoa Nursery Projects are fully operational and matured, Cocoa Board would have planted a total of 13 million trees nationwide with additional export earnings through FOB price at K60.48 million.
Remote Area Freight Subsidy Scheme: Every year, around 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes of cocoa valued at K30 to K40 million (2014 price) is stranded in remote areas of the country. Hence, the Cocoa Board has initiated the freight subsidy project with the objective to alleviate the issues of poor transportation, market accessibility and the escalating freight costs growers are currently faced with. This project is proving to be effective in ensuring extension services to the growers.
Cumulative results over the last three years shows that a total of over 10,700 tonnes of cocoa were moved to central and export markets, generating export earnings of K101 million. This translates to K73 million, money that has been transmitted direct to farmers in the districts.
Certification: This falls under the cocoa quality and market promotion initiatives of the Cocoa Board to ensure that all cocoa exporters, dry bean dealers and processors are licensed and meet world standards as well as complying with Cocoa Act 1981 and Cocoa Regulation 1982. By 2020, all cocoa bean products will be marketable only if they are certified under any of the certified label currently known as Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, and UTZ.
PPAP: Productive Partnership in Agriculture Project is a partnership project between the Government of PNG, World Bank, International Food and Agriculture Development (IFAD) program, and the European Union (EU). It facilitates and provides funding for organized farmer groups who work with a lead partner to rehabilitate their cocoa bocks, carry out CPB management trainings as well as provides ‘best practices’ skills to farmers at production level to maintain and achieve cocoa quality at all times. Formation of more cocoa grower cooperative groups is ideal as it makes it easier to tap into services provided by the government and private sector.
There still needs to be up-scaling of grower groups into Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurship ventures.
Partnership and Networking: The Cocoa Board wants to harness the true meaning of working with productive partners so as to create a win-win situation for all. Communication links are therefore vital in this respect.
Use of Service Providers: Due to capacity issues, the Cocoa Board will by all means utilize genuine and credible service providers who are willing to partner it in delivering services to growers in remote areas in a timely manner.
The Cocoa Board’s mandate is to control and regulate the growing, processing and marketing of cocoa in the country. It ensures there is good governance in maintaining the Cocoa Act and carries out inspection and quality control and training on best practices on cocoa intended for export on a regular basis.
One such monitoring and evaluation visit was recently carried out last December in the North Bougainville (AROB) and Kokopo and Gazelle districts in East New Britain where the Cocoa Board has existing MOA’s with these districts.
The team comprised Rodney Polly – senior planning and progaming officer with the National Planning and Monitoring Department, John Kendiga – Director Economic Research and Policy Planning with Agriculture and Livestock Department, Donald Sogavare – Research Officer Cocoa Breeding with PNG Cocoa Coconut Institute (PNGCCI), Kenny Francis – Research Officer Cocoa Quality Team Leader PNGCCI, Kabalan Alban – Research Officer Coco Quality PNGCCI, Romeo Tohiana Board of Directors CBPNG member, Moses Burin – CBPNG manager Buka, freelance journalist – Cyril Gare, and three senior Cocoa Board officers from the Kokopo headquarters; Tokai Waninara, Charles Koel and Francis Irasua.
Places visited in North Bougainville included Banio plantation in Tinputz, Soroken plantation and Puto village. Malasang village on Buka Island was also visited.
Project sites visited in ENB were at Ulagunan, Bitavavar, Malakuna 4 village, Nganalaka Co-operative Group, and Raluana 2 village.
While clonal nurseries and bud wood gardens are being established, support is needed in shifting the seedlings to planting (nursery to garden).
While solar combination driers are reaching farmer cooperative groups, there is still need for more for farmer groups; and
The price of K44,000 per unit price of a solar combination means many farmer groups cannot afford it and keep using the traditional wood driers.
With the K700 million-plus budgetary allocation for agriculture sector this year, the cocoa sector is optimistic of receiving its fair share to enable many of its existing projections, including roll out and supply of solar combination driers, to be achieved in order to reduce smoke taints and increase the quality rating of PNG cocoa on the international front by 2020.
- Cyril Gare is a freelance journalist.