CACAO growers and processors in Negros Occidental and other provinces in Western Visayas have gained a boost at the three-day training on production of fine-flavored cocoa products conducted by the Department of Agriculture (DA).

DA-Western Visayas partnered with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Popa Cooperative for the training in Iloilo City recently.

It gathered 50 cacao growers and processors in the provinces, as well as Iloilo, Antique, Guimaras, Capiz and Aklan, providing them with advanced cacao post-harvest approaches in producing high-quality beans.

High Value Crops Development Program Regional Cacao Coordinator Relvin Paragua, in a statement, said the three-day training aims to equip local growers with technologies to make quality cacao beans that could fit the Philippine National Standards (PNS).

“Also, we also aim for our local growers to enhance their chocolate products towards our target -- the fine flavor chocolate," he added.

Louie Cena, a cacao expert from Davao City and the vice president of Cacao Pilipinas Sensory Resources Inc., shared his expertise and detailed information on the best postharvest practices such as pre-fermentation preparations, fermentation principles, and recipe development in producing good flavor and export quality cocoa beans.

He also taught cacao processors in the region the proper pre-drying methods, which is a vital component to determine the flavor characteristic of the cocoa beans.

The cacao specialist also performed a hands-on demonstration at Cabayao Farm in Dingle, Iloilo to show the actual post-harvest techniques and procedures.

Meanwhile, DA-Western Visayas Regional Technical Director Engineer Jose Albert Barrogo said the agency continuously provides interventions for developing the cacao industry in the region.

Barrogo also urged the regional council to see through the cacao value chain and formulate the cacao investment program of the provinces in such a way that the agency could give relevant interventions.

"The DA is trying its best to open opportunities for the farmers so that we can have this chance to give you all the support that you need in developing our cacao industry," he added.

Regional Cacao Council Chairman Buen Mondejar, on the other hand, gave insights into the council's developments to formulate a standardized protocol on cacao production.

"The council gathered cacao experts to discuss and come up with acceptable management practices for cacao production," he said, adding that "ultimately, we will have a bible to guide us on how to produce cacao."

Mondejar also underscored that the training is very timely to develop the local cacao growers' skills and best practices on postharvest and processing, considering that more cacao growers are now into processing. (With reports from DA-Western Visayas)