By CYRIL GARE
NOT many cocoa-producing countries around the globe can boast that they have the best cocoa in the world.
PNG can though. Cocoa was one of the highest agricultural revenue earners for the country. In 2018, when the Cocoa Pod Borer (CBP) hit the industry, the results were dire.
While the disease has not completely gone away, farmers, with the help of authorities are keeping it at bay and making sure that cocoa makes a comeback.
The Cocoa Board of PNG (CBPNG) is working very hard to better cocoa production in the country, from planting to fermenting.
It has embarked on a new extensive cocoa tree planting project nationwide that is anticipated to earn more than K60 billion per year upon maturity.
Called the Cocoa Nursery Project (CNP), this high yield intervention project will see 13 million nurseries sprouting in participating LLGS and districts across PNG in the near future.
CBPNG Chief Executive Officer Boto Gaupa said the sector was serious about planting more cocoa and increasing the country’s yield (export volume) from the current 40,000 metric tonnes up to 100,000 metric tonnes by 2020 as anticipated by the Government.
PNG’s current supply accounts for only one per cent of the world’s cocoa market and brings in some K350 million in export earnings.
The industry employs 2.5 million smallholder farmers while millions more benefit along the value chain.
Gaupu said in order to achieve this target, the Cocoa board has to begin with its partnership with farmers, people who own land and labour, which is the ‘start’ of everything in the value chain.
“Because without them, there will be no cocoa, and consequently detrimental to the industry and economy”.
A total of 5,909 farmers were involved, planting 1,053,680 trees so far covering a total land mass of 1,747.66 hectares under this programme.
There has been a huge increase in total number of seedlings planted in the first quarter of 2017 mainly due to planting figures that has just recently been derived from North Bougainville MOA.
A total of 13 districts have signed MOAs with the Cocoa Board to drive the cocoa nursery project. Initially there were six districts that signed MOAs to partner with CB in rolling out the cocoa nursery projects in their respective districts.
Gaupu said an additional six more districts have joined and signed MOAs with the Cocoa board. Kavieng District Development Authority was the latest inclusion and work has commenced on Mussau Island, also in New Ireland.
The CB acknowledged and thanked the Government for its funding under the Productive Partnership in Agriculture Projects (PPAP) Cocoa Component program as well as support from PHAMA (Pacific Horticultural & Agricultural Market Access Program) and other strategic partners in driving the CNP nationwide.
Apart from the partner districts there were also special projects being implemented in other locations like Airara in Ijivitari District, Northern, Bulolo an Huon Gulf District in Morobe, and Pomio in East New Britain.
A total of 68 main nurseries and 43 satellite nurseries have already been built and are now operational.
It is anticipated that if all 13 cocoa nursery projects are fully operational and matured, the Cocoa Board will have planted 13 million trees nationwide with additional export earnings for the country through FOB price at K60,480,000.
During the Air Niugini PNG Cocoa Warwagira 2017 ‘Cocoa of Excellence’ Festival in Kokopo in May, former Agriculture and Livestock Minister Tommy Tomscoll said “agriculture starts from seeds.”
He said he wanted to see “heavy investment” in seed cultivation that will replace the current senile tree crops in the agriculture sector.
Overseas cocoa buyers and investors have highly commended PNG cocoa saying it has a unique flavour and can become one of the top flavour countries in the world if it is processed properly and more work is done to fine tune its quality and branding.
- Cyril Gare is a freelance journalist.