PHL to rely on imports as cacao self-sufficiency remains elusive

LOCAL chocolate makers are expected to continue importing cocoa, as cacao farmers may not be able to produce as much as 100,000 metric tons (MT) of cacao beans by 2020, an industry leader said on Tuesday.

Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines President Edward David said the local cacao industry may not be able to meet the production target under the government’s road map and an initiative dubbed as the “2020 Cacao Challenge.”

David said natural calamities have been largely responsible for the expected failure of local producers to increase output to 100,000 MT by 2020.

“Since we started the push for increased production in cacao, it has not really gone up because we were hit by natural calamities,” he told the BusinessMirror in a phone interview.

“With cacao production, you also have the challenge of time constraint. What compounds our problem is that we do not have enough nurseries, and we are not yet prepared with our seedlings,” David added.

The 2020 Cacao Challenge is an initiative of the local cacao industry and the national government to increase the country’s production and outward shipments of cacao beans.

Farmers have targeted to raise the number of cacao trees in the Philippines to about 50 million trees, which could yield 100,000 MT of cacao beans per year.

David said the target production volume is enough to satisfy the demand of local manufacturers and establish the Philippines as a cacao-exporting country. He added that local producers will not have problems in selling their produce, given the current deficit in global cocoa supply.

However, the Philippines will, likely, remain dependent on cocoa imports, as the current output could not meet local demand pegged at 30,000 MT. 

Despite this, David lauded the efforts of farmers and other stakeholders to boost output. “I’m happy with the passion of cacao growers. They will continue to plant as they know there is a demand in the local market.”

The average farm gate of price of cacao is currently at a range of P140 to P150 per kilogram, which is higher than world-market prices, according to David. This should entice more farmers to plant cacao, he said.

In 2014 data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the country’s cacao production rose by 11.31 percent to 5,427.66 MT, from 4,875.82 MT in 2013.

Data also showed that the number of cacao-bearing trees during the period rose by 3.09 percent to 3.70 million, from 3.59 million in the previous year.

Edwin Banquerigo, Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) national coordinator for cacao, said government data is only a third of the industry’s estimates.

Banquerigo said industry estimates place cacao-planting areas in the country at 25,000 hectares to 30,000 hectares and national output at 12,000 MT to 15,000 MT a year. He also said the cacao industry cluster—which includes the private sector, growers, the DTI and the Department of Agriculture—is planning to extend the implementation of the cacao road map until 2022.

“The 2020 Cacao Challenge will be extended to 2022 by the end of the next presidency. But we are not abandoning the targets. We are just pushing back the timetable so it could be implemented in the next administration,” Banquerigo added.

He said the new road map will be finalized and be presented in Cebu during a meeting with the industry cluster on May 25. The updated road map will be presented to the next president of the Philippines.

Under the existing road map, Banquerigo said the government is assisting farmers by giving them seeds and helping them improve average yearly cacao yield to 2 kilogram per tree from 1 kg per tree.

Banquerigo said the industry cluster will also urge the next president to create a cacao development council.

“One of the plans of the cluster is to come up with a cacao development council, which will require an executive order from the President. From there we will work on creating a cacao board, which will then require legislation from Congress,” he said.


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