By CYRIL GARE
The element of reward is behind time and effort invested in everything we do.
It became a reality for cocoa farmer, Gabriel Holingian of Tuonumbu village, Kubalia, in East Sepik on March 15.
Years of sheer hard work and sacrifice on his three blocks of cocoa that produce 840kg of wet beans fortnightly or four dried bags finally paid off that day when Cocoa Board of PNG (CBPNG) Chief Executive Officer, Boto Gaupu caught up with him and his lovely wife, Martha and daughter, Celinda at their road-side family cocoa block.
Tears rolled on Martha’s face while Gabriel stood speechless when Gaupu told the family they just earned themselves a free cocoa fermentary kit from the CBPNG.
It is always a cocoa farmer’s dream to own a fermentary kit which often is expensive, costing between K16,000 to K24,000 depending on size and type of the drier.
The Holingians maintain one of the best managed cocoa blocks along the Sepik Highway which attracted the Cocoa Board CEO to make a stop and to personally commend the blockholder. The CEO was on his way back to Wewak after visiting the Haripmo Momase regional cocoa nursery in neighbouring Yangoru.
Since March 2006 when the cocoa pod borer (pest) infestation decimated the K300 million industry, the country’s net production has dropped to below 40,000 tonnes.
The National Government through the CBPNG have intervened with training in the best farm management practices from tipping, formation and structural pruning, harvesting, processing and marketing of cocoa.
CBPNG is also involved in the supply of cocoa nursery construction materials, hybrid seeds, bud-graft seedlings using certified budding materials, and distribution of cloned seedlings.
CBPNG also introduced the district nursery project. Between 2014 and 2017, 108 cocoa nurseries were established in 14 districts and eight special projects sites in the country. Some 1,673,493 cocoa trees were planted while 247,826 seedlings were in nurseries. Some 7,315 farmers were involved utilising 2,187.98 hectares of land for cocoa development.
Cocoa production has since bounced back from 33,000 tonnes in 2014 to 42,000 tonnes in 2017 and is expected to further increase as production is realised from plantings done over the last three to four years.
CBPNG also rolled out the Remote Area Freight Subsidy Scheme (RAFSS). Every year, between 10,000 and 15,000 tonnes of cocoa valued between K30 and K40 million (2014 price) is stranded in remote areas of the country. Hence, RAFSS with the objective to alleviate the issues of poor transportation, market accessibility and the escalating freight costs which are faced by growers. RAFSS is now proving to be effective and successful across remote cocoa growing locations in PNG.
Gaupu said already 11.6 tonnes of stranded cocoa from remote areas which could have gone to waste had reached markets and generated K108.4 million. About 80 per cent of that sum went directly to rural farmers.
More than 2.5 million smallholder farmers are engaged in cocoa in PNG. The Government through CBPNG is adamant to increase the country’s net annual production to 109,000 tonnes from the current 40,000 tonnes per annum over the next five years.
PNG’s annual output of 40,000 equates to only 1 per cent of world’s cocoa on the world market compared to neighbouring Indonesia’s 350,000 tonnes.
However, the strenght of PNG cocoa lies in the fact that it enjoys a 90 per cent fine-flavour status on international cocoa rankings.
By CYRIL GARE