CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- A clear roadmap and market demand for cacao in Central Luzon will pave the way for the full development of the cacao industry in Pampanga.

These were among the initial things identified during the annual Regional Cacao Congress at Kingsborough International Convention Center here to fully realize the development of the cacao industry.

The congress was organized by the Kapampangan Development Foundation (KDF). It was a gathering of cacao industry stakeholders that aims to establish stronger linkages for sustainable and inclusive growth of the cacao industry in the region.

It also aims to assist cacao growers and stakeholders in promoting the products and growing industry of cacao in the local market, particularly local chocolate manufacturers.

The road map will serve as the blueprint on how to develop and market the cacao industry in Central Luzon.

The move is a project of the Cacao Region III Council, co-chaired by KDF, Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Trade and Industry to help sell farmers' produce and provide other processed and manufactured goods direct to the consumers.

As of now, only 400 hectares of land in Central Luzon is being planted with cacao.

In Pampanga alone, Governor Lilia Pineda has committed about 30,000 hectares for cacao plantation. Also, in the province of Aurora, 24,000 hectares are planted with coconut and can be intercropped with cacao.

Cacao is currently being projected as the next sunshine industry in the region and in Pampanga.

DA Undersecretary Evelyn Laviña earlier said that the government is now identifying highly capable farmers who can ensure that they can grow the plants as beneficiaries of the certified seedlings distributed by the agency.