Bringing out the best cacao flavor

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Sunday, March 2, 2014

SMALL-SCALE farmers in Davao City have joined efforts to produce quality cacao beans.

Through fermentation process, they bring out the best in flavor of cacao when processed as it removes tannins that cause astringent flavor.

Eduardo de Vera of Balingaeng Multipurpose Cooperative (BMPC) said fermented dried cacao beans are more aromatic compared to traditionally dried beans.


De Vera is a member of CacaoNet, a federation of 26 cacao farmers' cooperatives in Davao Region.

The CacaoNet was organized by the Task Force Mapalad (TFM) an agrarian reform group that supports small farmers in securing ownership of lands under agrarian reform.

Postharvest facility is one of the assistance the co-op availed itself of from the Department of Agriculture - High Value Crops Development Program (DA-HVCDP).

"Before we only sell wet beans at P30 per kilo or P90 per kilo of selected unfermented dried beans but with the support of the DA we are now into production of fermented dried beans which commands premium price at P120/kilo as it is more aromatic compared to traditionally dried beans," De Vera said.

De Vera said that their coop normally sell their cacao beans directly to traders "but with the facility that we have now, we can look for other markets."

DA-Davao Director Remelyn Recoter said a total of P2.239 million worth of production materials, postharvest facilities, processing equipment, and hauling truck were provided to the CacaoNet for the farmer-members to expand production area and to enhance the quality of their product.

CacaoNet president Musa Sajid said they used to suffer huge losses at 30-40 percent especially during rainy season, as the quality of their cacao beans deteriorates due to improper drying.

"Now that our co-op has the tunnel-type solar dryer from DA, it is easy for us to dry our cacao beans with less rejects even during rainy season as the dryer is covered with transparent plastic sheets," he said.

Sajid who is also the chair of the Tamayong Tausog Multi-Purpose Cooperative (TTMPC) said DA-HVCDP has also provided their co-op with a storage building (bodega) which enabled them to schedule harvesting cacao beans without worrying of its storage.

He also urged his members to consolidate and sell their produce to CacaoNet as they will not only help strengthen the federation but will also earn from their dividends and patronage refund.

He said that during peak season (October-January), their coop could produce at least 20 metric tons. In a one-hectare cacao plantation, a farmer could earn at least P100,000 within six months or P200,000 a year aside from his main income from other crops. Cacao is usually just an intercrop with traditional crops such as coconut.

Lolita Tadios, of the Biao Joaquin Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperative (BJARBC), said consolidating farmers' produce is easier now with the hauling truck provided by DA-HVCDP.

"We can now reach remote site so most of the member will no longer have to travel long distance just to deliver their produce to our co-ops. They save on hauling cost and time saved can be devoted to other farming activities," she said.

Advocating Fair Trade

TFM and CacaoNet actively promote fair trade to help producers get a fair price for their products and sustain their income.

Cacao farmers, including their cooperative, usually sell their produce to traders who dictate the price, putting farmers at the losing end.

"Before, if you look at how the business is being run, it is not transparent. Farmers should not depend on traders but rely among themselves in marketing their produce," said Dagohoy Magaway TFM enterprise development officer.

At present, Magaway said the federation regularly supplies cacao beans to Dalarich Foods, a leading tablea (choco block) processor in Bohol.

They are about to start exporting their cacao beans to Singapore, which requires at least 50 metric tons per month. They are also working on a marketing agreement with Taiwan who requires them to supply cacao nibs.

Magaway said they are also eyeing the increasing demand for cacao in the local market as an opportunity for cacao as ingredient for other products like butter, powder, liquor, and chocolate confectionery.

"Those in the grassroots especially the small farmers like us were usually neglected as we observed more attention is given to big players in the industry. Unlike now that the three organizations: TFM, CacaoNet, and DA-HVCDP XI converged to uplift our livelihood," Sajid said.

Sajid said CacaoNet did not only improve their income but boosted small cacao farmers' confidence as a group to seek for support and assistance. It has also enhanced their capacity as source of quality cacao beans.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 03, 2014.


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