TO TAKE part in Davao Region's bid to become the country's cacao capital, Dizon Farms, one of the pioneering players in local fruit industry plans to put up a cacao center and chocolate factory in Davao City.

"For what I see, cacao has a very bright future as long as we just know what to do to boost the industry," Philip "Sonny" Dizon of the Dizon Group of Companies said in an interview.

Though plans are still to be finalized, Dizon is keen to kick start the cacao center and chocolate factory by next year.

The center will rise in a 15-hectare farm in Ma-a, Davao City with components of a cacao seedling nursery, a venue for lecture sessions, on the job (OJT) experience, among others.

"It will be a source of planting material and a learning center as well," Dizon said.

He said that that to teach and provide farmers with knowledge in good agricultural practices (Gap) will equip them with the necessary tools to transcend in the agriculture sector.

Dizon said that one of the major problems in the cacao industry is technical deficiency among the players.

"We should put in mind that before we pour much funding for it, we should know how to utilize the funds wisely so we can maximize it and boost the production. We need to be grounded on the technical aspect of the industry," he said.

But he was quick to add that cacao players are capable of combatting such kind of problem.

Meanwhile, the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao Inc. (Cidami) in collaboration with the Universal Harvester Inc., International Plant Nutrition Institute (IPNI), ACDI/Voca are set to conduct a $250,000 research and development program dubbed as "Cacao Plant Nutrition Research" in January next year.

The research is aimed at improving the cacao industry's production. One of its targets is to increase the average annual cacao tree production from 700 grams to over a kilogram with the intervention of fertilization and other technical assistance for the industry as the four-year research will be done.

In an earlier report, the country around 23,000 has of cacao producing area, 21,000 has of which are in Mindanao. A total of 10,000 to 12,000 metric tons (MT) is recorded as the country's annual production, 3,000 MT of which is allocated for exportation.

Davao City has a total of 16,000 farmers devoted to cacao covering a total of 6,000 has.