Cacao is back on track-A A +A
Sunday, September 15, 2013
SAN Isidro town is a hinterland municipality in Davao del Norte, and as a host to a number of caves and waterfalls, it is more fitting to be in the list of tourism sites.
But more than just being a tourism destination, the town has a thriving cacao industry so enmeshed with other crops like coconut, that before anyone else will know, cacao is now back in the scene.
Chokolate de San Isidro (CSI), one of the major players of cacao in the country, happens to be in San Isidro and is presently taking the lead in reviving the cacao industry there.
Back in the days, Carlos Barsicula, local farmer and manager of CSI, said cocoa production was but very progressive long before the market went awry, which made farmers to turn to other crops, while cacao trees suffered from neglect.
Despite that being the reason for the dwindling production level, companies like CSI found its way to some of the international markets.
CSI marketing director Dante Muyco said the company is already exporting dried cacao beans to Europe at about 300 metric tons a year since 2009 and at the same time finding new markets across Asian countries.
It was established in 2008 and has since been taking great strides after it tested the waters in Manila where many of the major buyers came from like chocolate shops, hotels and restaurants, food processors, and bakers, comprising 80 percent of CSI's local market.
Meanwhile, 10 percent of its roasted cacao beans are distributed to Davao and another 10 percent to Cebu.
The company is also most famous for its tablea, which according to some, has distinctive taste unlike other brands available in the market.
There's no question about how aromatic its tablea is and how desirable thickness and rich flavors can make anybody swoon upon it.
Perhaps, the secret is in the fermentation and roasting.
From harvesting, Barsicula said, the beans will be poured in straight to the fermentation boxes -- 32 of them are in place at CSI's post-harvest facility -- and then it will be left there for five days for fermentation.
After fermentation, cacao beans will then be up for drying at the solar dryers for another five to eight days.
After the long days of fermenting and roasting, all quality beans will be sorted out and then the roasting process, which is the most interesting because it is in this part where the chocolate aroma comes out of each roasted bean.
"That's the requirement for export quality because this one is for chocolate. That's the standard followed worldwide," he said.
Muyco said CSI has a total of 400 farmers who own 30 percent stake of the company.
Each farmer can harvest somewhere between 700 kilos to 1,000 kilos a year per hectare, but this isn't much. In fact, the ideal production yield of cacao a hectare should reach two tons a year.
To rev up production yield may not happen at least in the shortest period, but CSI is giving it all in helping the industry revive. Opening a nursery recently for rearing cacao seedlings to be distributed to farmers later on was among those efforts.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on September 16, 2013.