In the last 10 years, the popularity of Davao’s chocolates has gained renown for the region, as confections and other products made from the region’s beans find their way to global markets. This explains why Davao City has been declared the cacao capital of the country.
The Philippine Statistics Authority reports that from April to June this year our national cacao production was 2,350 metric tons with the Davao Region contributing the lion's share at 1,670 metric tons. Assuming we multiply the figure by four to determine annual total national production, this would barely make 10,000 metric tons. The rates of growth in producing cacao beans over the years have been slow, a far cry if it intends to meet our estimated annual local demand of 40,000 metric tons per year.
As our local chocolate has been reaping awards in many global competitions, the recognition of Philippine Cacao as a top-quality ingredient is spurring export demand for top-grade bean harvests. Moreover, as our population grows, so does this local demand for candies and chocolates. The opportunity to meet this local and foreign demand is clear.
Thus, we need to boost cacao production to meet this demand. At the same time, it can create countryside income and jobs in the growing and processing industries created to meet local and export demand. A high volume of local cacao will allow local candy manufacturers to shift to local raw materials. Likewise, expanding the growing of this tree will be good for local ecosystems since it strengthens watersheds.
Even as the cacao roadmap launched in 2017 called for a sustained increase in total production to meet demand, there are still many challenges to meet these targets. Perhaps it is time to critically determine how we can boost production.
This and other matters were discussed in this year's National Cacao Congress in Davao City. Drawing hundreds of participants, this event discussed ways of achieving higher production and productivity to boost the prospects of this industry. May this be the start of an important national conversation on the future of this industry.
Some ideas include the need to boost intercropping in the millions of hectares of coconut farms all over the country. The added income will be good for farmers. Perhaps we can examine whether our coconut farmers are indeed intercropping cacao.
The good news is that many other regions can also grow these crops well. Expanding the growth and production in areas outside these present regions will be needed to meet current and future demand.
What else can be done to boost production? Apart from more advanced agricultural practices, I believe inviting more large-scale chocolate processing industries particularly those making chocolate blocks and candies will create an additional market for lesser grade cacao beans. In particular, intercropping in coconut farms is seen as a way forward since the partial shading of the coconut fronds provides good conditions for consistent fruiting and high cacao harvests. This also gives the coconut farmer an extra leg of cash income in the same area, while saving on inputs since fertilizing the cacao also spurs a higher coconut harvest.
What can be done further is to promote agro-processing investments because these are large, bulk buyers of the crop. As the taste for Philippine Cacao gains wider acceptance in many parts of the world, demand for this is likely to increase. There will be opportunities, therefore in growing and improving tree yields and downstream industries. I look forward to these taking place.