Cocoa industry needs help


MAPRIK in East Sepik stands to earn about K150 million annually if its cocoa extension programme is tied together well.
Papua New Guinea has huge potential to grow cocoa because it has huge land mass and fertile land.
Currently, PNG produces about one per cent of the global production which contributes K300 million to the national economy.
Having done his calculations, Maprik MP John Simon knows the potential this crop can return to his district purse.
The district plans to plant around 2.2 million seedlings a year between the 21 economic zones. The extension programme will cost around K35 million to implement over five years.
The return on investment is what the MP has his eye on. Imagine if all districts go down that road?
The majority of PNG’s population live in the rural areas, and their livelihood depends largely on subsistence agriculture.
Agriculture accounts for about a third of the GDP and it is a sector dominated by smallholder farmers.
Cocoa is the most important export cash crop of smallholder farmers in the wet lowlands. Although PNG contributes only a small percentage of the world cocoa market, it has established an international reputation for quality, attracting 90 per cent of a premium for fine and flavoured cocoa. Over 90 per cent of PNG cocoa is produced by smallholders.
PNG is the second largest cocoa producer in Asia after Indonesia.
long-term, PNG has the potential to supply good-quality fermented beans in Asia.
So there is a readily available market for PNG cocoa beans, but there is a need to strengthen our volumes to make that difference.
According to cocoa exporter Outspan PNG Limited, the global market is divided into three production areas – the United States, Africa and Asia. Currently, West Africa leads the world in cocoa production, followed by the US.
The US and Europe have the highest cocoa consumption rate. Both these markets are headed towards saturation points at this stage.
The next important emerging market is Asia.
PNG’s cocoa industry has been in decline since the serious outbreak of the cocoa pod borer (CPB) from 2008. Cocoa exports fell from 52,579 tonnes in 2008 to 33,090 tonnes in 2015. Production has now increased to over 40,000 tonnes.
However, the industry faces problems with low and stagnant yields, and inconsistent quality. Cocoa is grown in 14 of PNG’s 22 provinces, with East Sepik, Bougainville, Madang, East New Britain, Morobe, West New Britain and New Ireland being the major producers.
Cocoa sustains around 151,000 families equating to about two million people in the country. It provides income for at least 20 per cent of the population.
PNG cocoa had the potential to compete with the best in the world given its great flavours. It is also important to sustain good quality cocoa along with quantity.
The challenge for the government and the private sector is to find a way to translate this high-quality cocoa reputation into more money in the pockets of our growers who live in the rural areas.
And that is why the cocoa industry needs major interventions from the govnernment in order to facilitate new planting materials and low-interest long-term agricultural loans.
Only then can a district like Maprik make its cocoa extension programmes a reality.