Over 300 participants composed of small-scale cacao growers, farmer associations, business operators, and processors throughout Leyte joined the two-day Cacao Investment Forum held at Origami Convention Center on April 19 and 20.
The congress aimed to promote inclusive growth and sustainable cacao industry development in Leyte and in the region through educating the farmers on good agricultural practices, and providing them with knowledge on investment and marketing opportunities.
Mayor Richard Gomez, and city agriculture committee chair Tomas Serafica, welcomed the development, and both expressed gratitude for holding the congress in the city which would future benefit the local farmers, especially those who are planning to venture in cacao farming.
DTI Leyte provincial director, Desiderio Belas Jr. presented quick facts on local cacao production where he said that there are currently some 2,000 individuals growing the commodity accounting to 625 hectares of cacao plantation in the region.
Cacao (Theobroma cacao), fondly called as the “tree of love” and “food of the Gods”, produces dried and fermented fatty seed, which is used to make chocolates. In the Philippines, Davao accounts to 80% of cacao production, yet the country is a net importer of the commodity.
The event served as a powerhouse of speakers who are leaders of the country’s cacao industry.
Mr. Edwin Banquerigo, assistant regional director of DTI-XI was happy to announce that the country’s cacao roadmap was already signed by President Rodrigo Duterte together with key industry players in March this year. The roadmap serves as a master plan that would guide stakeholders to have a unified goal and direction in developing the cacao industry. Banquerigo added that it was aligned to their so-called “Cacao Challenge” which is to produce 100,000 MT (megatons) of fermented beans by 2022 for export and domestic markets.
Mr. Valente Turtur, executive director of Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao Inc. (CIDAMI) also mentioned that the final roadmap was a collective effort of cacao-concerned agencies that previously had their own versions of cacao roadmap.
Turtur also gave a comprehensive discussion that equipped participants with basic knowledge and strategies in cacao production during the congress.
Also present was Mr. Angel Puentespina, the general manager of Malagos Farm in Davao City, a purely Filipino, family-owned company that processes its own chocolate and other cacao products that they export to international markets such as US and Europe. He shared their experiences, specifically on investment and marketing opportunities for cacao growers.
The cacao congress was also capped with discussions on the support and financing programs for cacao and other high value crops by regional offices of the Department of Agriculture, Philippine Coconut Authority and DTI’s Small Business Corporation; and finally a farm visit to Pura Farms owned by Mr. Iñigo Larrazabal that served as a cacao farm model in Ormoc.
-Joseph Pilapil / City Media Relations Office