GOOD farming practices have allowed three Davao cacao farmers to be named "Best Cacao Beans" in the Philippine Cacao Quality Awards 2022.

The cacao beans of Judith V. Gabasa and Policarpo B. Enricoso, Jr. of Brgy. Saloy, Calinan, and Melinda O. Villaflor of Callawa, Buhangin were named "Qualified Best Cacao Beans" in the Philippine Cacao Quality Awards (PCQA) 2022. The three of them will represent the Philippinees in the Cocoa of Excellence of the International Cocoa Awards at Salon du Chocolat in Paris in 2023.

"I didn't expect nga makuha nako na kay (to receive the award because) this is the first time I joined," Villaflor, who learned about growing cacao with Puentespina Farms, said after the awarding during the Cacao National Congress 2022 at the SMX, SM Lanang Premier, Davao City on November 25.

She said the key to having quality cacao beans is having quality seedlings.

"Diha gyud siya mag-start sa farm na dapat ang imong seedlings are quality kay kung dili quality imong seedlings, of course, dili pud nimo makuha ang quality sa imong beans (It starts at the farm. You have to get quality seedlings to have quality beans)," she said.

Villaflor said it was through training and seminars by Puentespina Farms that allowed her to gain knowledge on how to manage cacao farms.

Enricoso, who is a cacao farmer for the last 25 years, said it was the assistance of award-winning chocolate brand Auro Chocolate that empowered and enabled him as a farmer to produce quality cacao beans.

"Naa mi processing, gisulod namo sa dryer, naa fermentehan, naa ko'y mga facilities ana pinaagi sa support sa Auro Chocolate (Through the support of Auro Chocolate, we were able to fave post-harvest processing facilities like a dryer or for fermentation)," Enricoso said. His farm has been supplying cacao beans to Auro Chocolate for the last seven years.

Gabasa, who is a cousin of Enricoso, said her native cacaos may have been a factor in winning the PCQA.

Davao Regional Cacao Industry Council (DRCIC) chair Dante Muyco said a lot of factors come into play in how a cacao bean could be declared "Best Cacao Bean" but one of the primary factors that will determine the quality of cacao is how it was grown or took care of.

"If you take care of your farms really well, you develop all these flavors... If you have good post-harvest practices, you will have good flavor," Muyco said.

However, he said the topography and the climate also play an important role in developing the quality of cacao beans.

He said around 80 to 100 entries of cacao beans from the whole country were assessed and examined for the PCQA.

Muyco is hopeful that the cacao beans from the Dabawenyo farmers will win big in the International Cocoa Awards.

"Kapag nanalo tayo (If we win) in the international scene, we could also increase the interest in Philippine cacao," he said.

For her part, Armi Lopez-Garcia, the chairperson of the Philippine Cacao Industry Council (PCIC), is also hopeful that Philippine cacao will win on the international scene.

"They will be competing internationally and we really pray that they will succeed and they will earn either gold or silver because they will be the pride of the country and the industry," she said.

Meanwhile, the three farmers urge their fellow cacao farmers to observe and share good farming and post-harvest practices.

"Unta atong ipadayon kung unsa mga natun-an nato na i-share nato sa ubang farmers and then we teach also atong nahibal-an sa ubang farmers (I hope we will share to one another what we have learned to other farmers)," Villaflor said.

Enricoso added, "Pagdasig sila sa pag tanom sa cacao kay ang cacao makatabang sa atong kapanginabuhian labi na gyud kanang pag atiman. Importante is farmers ta, dunay tay hustong pag-atiman sa atong mga kakaw aron mu-income ta og dako (Let's plant more cacao because it will help uplift our lives, especially if we take care of our farms. We are farmers and properly taking care of our cacao will allow us to increase our income)." RJL