Key stakeholders in the cacao industry are working to boost the quality and production volume of cacao beans as demand both in the domestic and export markets is increasing.
“There is always a big opportunity for cacao right now because there is still a demand and demand is still increasing… Even the cacao prices here are actually quite high, it is an all-time high in cacao prices right now,” Philo Chua, board member of Philippine Cacao Industry Association (PCIA), said in a briefing.
Chua said the Philippines requires 37,000 metric tons of cacao beans while the local production is only about 10,000 metric tons.
“So there is a big gap there right now but a lot of the big companies are not getting locally because they are worried about the supply, they are still importing…,” he said.
He added that a lot of cacao farmers currently only produce 700 grams of dried beans per tree, below the 2 kilograms per tree target for them to generate earnings.
Despite the domestic demand and supply gap, Chua said the Philippines is exporting good quality cacao beans to chocolate makers in Europe, North America and Japan, as the country has been producing beans recognized as among the best in the world since 2017.
In a bid to close this gap, he said the government has been distributing cacao seedlings and promoted the beans.
Chua said the PCI has teamed up with universities and colleges to conduct a research on how and where cacao should be planted, noting “there are actually some places that are optimum for planting cacao because of weather conditions, soil conditions.”
He added his group and the Department of Agriculture have released a map where cacao should be grown to achieve viability of production.
Apart from these initiatives, Chua is pushing for government assistance to address the domestic demand and supply gap.
“Number one is (to) help with productivity so that requires a lot of training because we release new standards of the production methods for growing or planting cacao,” he said in mixed English and Filipino. “And then of course we want to get interventions also with regards to the connection between the farmer and the buyer.”
To boost the quality of cacao, Chua also invited top world experts on production and fermentation to provide best training to local farmers.
The Philippine Cacao Industry Roadmap 2021-2015 has identified upscaling strategies to expand and promote the industry.
These include increasing production and access to quality planting materials based on the climate and soil suitability map; improving farm productivity by adopting the harmonized production and postharvest protocol; aggressive promotion of value-added products; strengthening market linkage and Philippine branding of quality cacao; and continual provision of technical support on production, processing and marketing.