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About three hundred farmers and entrepreneurs from north Luzon trooped to La Trinidad, Benguet for a three-day forum that includes an investment forum on Cacao as part of the Agribusiness Support for Promotion and Investment in Regional Exposition (ASPIRE) conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Trade and Industry and Philippine Chamber of Commerce.

Benguet Governor Cresencio Pacalso during his opening remarks said that it looks like there is a bright future for the cacao industry here in the Cordillera as proven by the number of participants who came from the provinces of the Cordillera Administrative Region.

DTI CAR Regional Director Myrna Pablo in her opening statement said that the collaboration of government line agencies seeks to address the production of high value crops such as the development of the cacao industry in the region. Pablo, who is also the DTI Champion for coffee mentioned that a Cacao Road Map is now guiding these agencies to boost the infant industry with the end goal of raising cacao production to about one hundred metric tons of beans in the Cordillera alone by 2022 as a commitment to the 22 Cacao Challenge. With cooperating agencies such as DA, DTI, DENR and Department of Science and Technology that provide post-harvest-facilities and Landbank for loans, Pablo looks forward to a more purposive and cohesive convergence of service providers that leads to what she refers to as “Angat Lahat.” 

Regional Executive Director Narciso Edillo of the DA Regional Field Office-CAR assured the participants that cacao despite its being mostly a backyard industry has a guaranteed market and there is no substitute to it as a food commodity.

Atty. Rhaegee Tamaña who represented Sen. Cynthia Villar of the Senate Committee on Agriculture said the country is well positioned to fill the gap in the shortage of cacao in the world market. She further added that these are the exciting times to the cacao industry as the demand is so great and RP is well positioned to fill the gap with government’s help.

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Cordillera Cacao Industry Cluster Coordinator and DTI Abra Provincial Director Arell Bañez gave an overview of cacao saying that more farmers in the region are already engaged in cacao. Bañez informed the participants that a Cordillera Cacao Industry Council has been organized with Victorino Baroña as its Chairman.

DTI National Cacao Industry Coordinator and Assistant Regional Director of DTI Region 11 Edwin Banquerigo gave an overview and outlined the state and investment opportunities for cacao. Banquerigo explained that nobody is left behind the collaboration and convergence referring to the “inclusive growth” in every facet of the cacao industry value chain. The top exporters of chocolate like Germany, Netherlands and Belgium are not even cacao producers and this he said makes the Philippines in a good competitive advantage.

Rex Puentespina of Malagos Chocolates Agri-ventures narrated his experience and good agricultural practices including promotion and marketing strategies.

The chocolate flavor starts from the farmer with a good cacao beans Puentespina explained. Chocolate is considered as food for the Gods hence it should start from good genetics, optimum fermentation and product testing through taste tests he further elaborated.

Philippine Cacao Industry Council Chair Valente Turtur spent his time discussing the basics and economics of cacao production saying “Sa cacao may forever”. Turtur advised the farmers to plant grafted cacao from DA approved clones. Since cacao is a forest dweller according to Turtur, farmers should plant cacao in a shaded environment with a distance of at least 2.5 to 3 meters apart. A manual for coffee production has been produced by the Council and he urged farmers to also consult their local agriculture office for guidance. Other resource speakers who shared valuable insights to the participants were Patricia Limpe of Antonio Pueo Inc. Coffee Factory who discussed market opportunities for cacao producers and Philo Chua of Theo & Philo Artisan Chocolates who lengthily discussed investment opportunities for processed cacao.♦

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