A NEGRENSE is one of the three Filipino farmers who made it to the prestigious International Cocoa Awards (ICA) and joined the roster of best cocoa producers in the world.
He is Christopher Fadriga, a cacao farmer from Barangay Atipuluan in Bago City, Negros Occidental.
Fadriga told SunStar Bacolod that the recognition given to cacao beans grown in the province shows that Negrenses can grow world-class agricultural crops.
"Negros is so blessed with rich volcanic soil and weather," he said, adding that "our highlands are our assets where we can develop other high-value crops like coffee, avocado, citrus, salad veggies, bamboo and so much more."
Fadriga, whose specialty is criollo variety, was earlier chosen as among the four winners by the 2021 Philippine Cacao Quality Award (PCQA).
The PCQA recognizes superior quality and exceptional flavors of diverse cocoa varieties in the country.
The Negrense cacao farmer and cocoa producer said "our dream is to make Negros Occidental as an heirloom cacao producing province and home of the best tasting chocolates grown by our passionate next generation cacao farmers."
"The world is ready for our cacao and chocolates, we just need to grow more to meet the demand," Fadriga also said.
The two other Filipino farmers who made this year's ICA are Arthur Lagoc of Davao City and Carlos Barsicula of San Isidro, Davao del Norte.
The Department of Agriculture-Davao, in its Facebook page, said the cocoa made by Fadriga and two fellow Filipino farmers stood out from 235 samples coming from 53 cocoa-producing countries around the world.
The ICA, through the Cocoa Excellence (CoEX) Program, is a biennial global competition recognizing the value of work of cocoa (cacao) farmers, the agency said.
This is by providing them global recognition and celebrate the diversity of flavors from different origins in the world, it added.
For his part, Bago City Mayor Nicholas Yulo said "he [Fadriga] did our city proud."