House panel passes bill declaring Davao City as PH cacao capital

The House of Representatives has begun to recognize the impact of the Duterte family's efforts in developing Davao City's burgeoning cacao industry.

On Tuesday, the Committee on Agriculture and Food approved House Bill (HB) No. 7460, which seeks to declare the City of Davao as the "Chocolate and Cacao Production Capital of the Philippines." Cacao is the main ingredient in the production of chocolate, a confection loved the world over.

Deputy Speaker and ABONO Party-List Rep. Conrado Estrella III filed the measure, which was endorsed by several resource persons during a virtual hearing.

"Why Davao should be declared cacao capital? First, we have the biggest cacao areas in the Philippines. Second, this is the biggest trading capital in the Philippines. Third, we have the biggest number of chocolate processors in the Philippines. We have a total of 76 local chocolate and tablea processors in Davao. Another reason is, all of the experts of the cacao industry are here in Davao," Cacao Industry Development Association Mindanao Inc. (CIDAMI) President Valente Turtur told the panel.

But for Davao City to achieve chocolate supremacy, the stakeholders such as cacao farmers and chocolate processors first needed the unwavering support of local officials.

"Our very own Davao City mayor has been very supportive. Every year she makes sure that there's a local fund for cacao," Turtur said, referring to presidential daughter, Sara Duterte.

"In fact, in 2018 she gave P2 million just to assist the local chocolate processors. She assisted also in setting up the cacao city shop," the CIDAMI official said.

"We have a very supportive local government in Davao City in terms of cacao production. Even before, when President Duterte used to be our city mayor, he released P12 million just to assist the cacao farmers to grow more cacao. So we have all the experts and all the technologies. So that really makes us the cacao capital and chocolate capital of the Philippines," he added.

Department of Agriculture (DA) Usec. Evelyn Lavina agreed that Davao City deserves the title of cacao capital. "Davao City has been consistently producing the highest volume of cacao in the entire country," she noted.

"Significantly, Davao cacao has been recognized as among the world's best, with local brands making waves in the international chocolate competitions and a growing number of Filipino and foreign chocolate-makers sourcing their beans from Davao. These are definitely at par with international quality," she said.

Lavina said the Davao region (Davao City, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley) has 18,000 hectares of land dedicated for cacao trees. These five provinces comprise the top five cacao producers in the country, she said.

Turtur further boasted that Davao region has a total of five local chocolate processors awarded internationally.

"We have the first cacao international award (from) Paris, an ordinary cacao farmer from a rebel-infested, far-flung area in Davao City. I don't think there is any province, city or locality in the Philippines that can make that claim, to say they're cacao capital. Only Davao City," he said.

Estrella, in his explanatory note, said that 5,073 metric tons (MT) of cacao were produced in the Davao region in 2016 as per the Philippine Statistics Authority. Of the figure, Davao City produced 1,806.80 MT.

"The US Department of Agriculture expects global demand to reach between 4.7 million MT to 5 million MT by year 2020 with an estimated 1 million MT deficit. This has propelled the "Philippine Cacao Challenge" which commits the Philippines to producing 100,000 MTs by the year 2020," the author said.

Turtur said Davao City produced 2,300 MT of cacao in 2019.