A CACAO-BASED cooperative in Davao City has proven its capacity not only to meet the demand for cacao beans but also to produce quality chocolates that could compete with other famed local chocolates in the country.
The Biao Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (Barbco) in Barangay Talandang, Tugbok District, Davao City currently has around 1,200 hectares in the different areas of Davao Region cultivated by more than 2,000 cacao farmers. The cooperative is under the Department of Agriculture-High Value Crops Development Program (DA-HVCDP).
BARBCO manager Alfonso Andoy, Jr. told SunStar Davao that with the support of the DA, Department of Agrarian Reform, the City Government of Davao through its City Agriculturists Office and other government agencies, the cooperative was able to thrive in transforming plain cacao production center into producing processed products.
"We have proven that we could produce our own chocolate products from our own produced cacao beans. This way, cacao farmers are encouraged as they can see that there is really demand for both cacao beans and chocolates," he said.
This also opened opportunities for cacao farmers to increase their income through value adding.
"We look into value-adding activity and monitor the value chain. We made a proposal to the DA and they saw our advocacy not only in making the cacao industry in the region known, but also in helping the farmers stick into cacao farming," Andoy said.
He said from harvesting cacao beans, they converted it into fine flavor which may take 20 to 25 days of fermentation using an equipment that has the capacity to process around 6,000 to 8,000 cacao beans.
Barbco is now slowly penetrating the market with their products like chocolate-coated mallows, chocolate-coated bread sticks, tablea, instant champorado, dark chocolates, and milk chocolates. There are also products that are on trend during occasions like the bouquet of chocolates, hugot chocolates, among others. Andoy said they make sure that they know what is trending in the market and innovate to keep up.
Andoy said the cooperative is also starting to train their cacao farmers to become entrepreneurs of their own products.
"We are hoping to expand our area for planting cacao and encourage more farmers to be part of our cooperative. We have all the support, facilities and technology to further improve our industry. Davao will continue to become prominent in cacao and chocolate production not only in the country but also abroad," Andoy said.
While the industry is evidently on the rise, cacao farmers continue to face numerous challenges like lack of connectivity and market access.