A NEGRENSE cacao farmer and cocoa producer is one of the country's representatives to the 2021 International Cocoa Awards (ICA) in Paris, France in October.

Christopher Fadriga, of Barangay Atipuluan in Bago City, was chosen as among the four winners by the 2021 Philippine Cacao Quality Award (PCQA) that recognizes superior quality and exceptional flavors of diverse cocoa varieties in the country.

Fadriga, along with Arthur Lagoc, Solidad Robillo and Carlos Brasicula, all of Davao Region, will be given the chance to showcase the quality of their produce in the international arena through this year's ICA.

For Provincial Agriculturist Japhet Masculino, Fadriga, whose specialty is criollo variety, has put Negros Occidental in the cacao production map.

"His [Fadriga] dedication to propagating various varieties of cacao has paid off. His achievement has placed the province in the map of quality cacao producers," he added.

The Department of Agriculture (DA)-Davao, in its Facebook page, said that out of the 23 cacao bean entries nationwide submitted by farmers engaged in cacao farming, only those of Fadriga and three others have passed the series of evaluation and selection processes.

Quoting the statement of 2021 PCQA organizing committee chair Charita Puentespina, the regional line agency said the competition seeks to increase the awareness along the cocoa value chain in the country on the opportunity to produce high quality cocoa.

"By showcasing not just the best practices of our cacao farmers but the quality of their produce in the international arena, it will create market linkages which will open more market doors and vast opportunities for our cacao farmers," Puentespina said.

Cacao experts have evaluated the aroma, external appearance, fissuring and color of the cacao beans on the first phase of the PCQA while a group of chocolatiers evaluated the second and final judging, the agency said.

Undersecretary for High Value Crops and Rural Credit Evelyn Laviña, also in a Facebook post by the DA-Davao, said that judges' feedback on every entry will be sent back to the participating farmers for them to know the opportunities to improve on their produce.

"This is an opportunity for every cacao farmer to step-up their ventures and take advantage of the increasing market demand for quality cocoa. The DA's High Value Crops Development Program does not only provide production and support services but also the marketing aspect," she added.