AIMING to support smallholder cacao farmers, particularly in terms of marketing and production through the provision of post-harvest facilities, the Provincial Government recently launched the Fermented Cacao Beans Marketing Enterprise Project, which is set to benefit 924 farmers all over the province.
Funded under the Philippine Rural Development Program's Investment for Rural Enterprise for Agricultural Productivity (I-Reap), the Department of Agriculture, and with counterpart funds from the Provincial Government and the proponent groups, the project is set to support the production and consolidation of fermented beans while ensuring that the farmers' produce will have a sure and ready market.
With a total project cost of P14.5 million, the project covers seven farmers associations and cooperatives in the municipalities of San Isidro, Manay, Tarragona, Lupon, Banaybanay, Governor Generoso, and the City of Mati.
On July 1, Governor Nelson Dayanghirang turned over post-harvest facilities and equipment to the Nagmasid Agrarian Reform Cooperative in the municipality of San Isidro -- one of the seven group-beneficiaries.
Among the facilities and equipment turned over were solar tunnel drier, fermentation facility, storage, cargo truck, weighing scale, and a moisture meter.
Aside from these facilities, the group also availed itself of a P1 million loan under the Provincial Cooperative Office's credit program, which will serve as the cooperative's counterpart fund for the project.
The cooperatives in six other local government units are also set to receive the equipment and facilities under the project.
Provincial Agriculture Office Department Head Rotchie Ravelo said the project aims to produce 227 metric tons of dried fermented cacao beans in the first year with an 85 percent increase in the third year onwards while, in process, also increasing the farmers' income by 37.17 percent.
To do so, the project aims to produce fermented dried beans that command a higher price than the traditional and sometimes poor-quality dried beans produced by farmers.
Ravelo said the fermentation process through the fermentation facility will lessen the impurities of the beans and bring out its most desirable flavor, a quality which chocolate manufacturers are looking for in cacao beans.
The integrators and processors whom the provincial government negotiated with to buy the cacao beans from the farmers are the Puentespina Farm and Kenemer Foods Inc.
Ravelo stressed that the project provides farmers a channel to reach the market without the intervention of the middlemen.
"Enhancing and capacitating them more is an absolute way of making the farmers more competitive," he said.
Department of Agriculture Regional Director Engr. Ricardo Oñate said that despite the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, the huge demand for cacao has not diminished, adding that there is a clear and sure market for the cacao beans.
"While the province now has a local market, the DA is eyeing to secure export market for the local cacao industry. This is the reason why we are enhancing the production and our marketing strategies," he said.
Dayanghirang said he is optimistic and supportive of the project that is touted to increase the income of the farmers and generate jobs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
He added that the project will also lessen the farmers' dependency on copra.
"We don't want our farmers to rely solely on coconut. Currently, we are embattled with the low price of copra. We must be resourceful to augment our income, try other possible means, like intercropping cacao. All it takes is hard work with determination," he said.
Aside from Nagmasid Agrarian Reform Cooperative, other cooperative-beneficiaries of the projects are the Davao Oriental Coconut Industry Development Coalition of the City of Mati, Limot Mandaya Tribal Multi-Purpose Cooperative of Tarragona town, Yagakauyon na Kooperatiba ng San Ignacio of Manay town, Gov. Generoso Farmers Association of Governor Generoso town, Panikian Cacao Small Farmers Association of Banaybanay town, and Nagkahiusang Kristohanong Mag-uuma of Lupon town. (PR)