KALIBO, Aklan -- An official of the Department of Agriculture (DA) said the department's Western Visayas regional office has found a farmer in Aklan who has been growing Criollo, a rare and expensive variety of cacao.
“The farmer (name undisclosed) was attending a two-day seminar on cacao production initiated by the DA. The DA officials asked the cacao farmers to bring a sample of their cacao plantation the next day and there they discovered the presence of Criollo,” said Alexys Apolonio, senior provincial agriculturist of the Office of the Provincial Agriculture in Aklan.
The discovery has been described as similar to having struck gold since Criollo, according to the government roadmap on cacao production, is "considered the most prized, rare and expensive variety."
The roadmap said there are currently three major cultivar groups being grown by Filipino cacao farmers, namely, Criollo, Forastero and Trinitario.
The Criollo is native to Central and South America and is believed to have been brought to the Philippines through the Acapulco-Manila galleon trade in 1670.
"Only 5 percent of the world's cacao production is Criollo. This variety is difficult to grow, as (it is) extremely susceptible to pests and diseases," the roadmap stated.
Criollo cacao beans are white to pale pink, less bitter and more aromatic.
"Considered as the 'Prince of Cocoas', Criollo is an ingredient in premium chocolates," the document added.
For several years, Libacao Mayor Charito Navarosa has been scouring other provinces, "hoping to find the said variety and plant it in the said town," said Apolonio.
The unnamed farmer, who hails from Barangay Pinonoy, Libacao, Aklan, reportedly told the DA officials that the plant has been there for several years already. He does not know that his cacao variety is of premium quality.
“Based on what I know, the farmer has only five trees of such variety in his backyard. The DA officials in the region have committed to make it as a mother plant for production. We hope to propagate such variety in the province,” Apolonio said.
Apolonio said the discovery of Criollo is also timely since a small entrepreneur in Libacao is starting to produce chocolates made from cacao. The entrepreneur is currently using ordinary cacao varieties.
“The entrepreneur has coordinated with the Department of Science and Technology and the Department of Trade and Industry for his chocolate cacao business. It has a large potential because of our tourism industry but their production is still relatively small but there is a huge potential,” said Apolonio.
"The investor is currently buying P5 per cacao fruit up to P90 per kilo of fermented cacao seeds all over the province to be used for his chocolate business," he added. (From a report by Jun N. Aguirre/SunStar Philippines)