Solon Eyes Planting 1M Cacao Trees To Assist Dev’t Of Industry

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A lawmaker on Tuesday proposed the establishment of a national program to fast-track the development of the cacao industry through the planting of one million trees in the Davao region and other parts of Mindanao.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Ray Villafuerte said capitalizing on the growth of the cacao industry would increase livelihood for Filipinos, especially in agriculture-rich areas.

Villafuerte said using a mere 100,000 hectares for intercropping cacao with coconut trees would potentially create 1,000 jobs for Mindanao residents and more options for coconut farmers.

He said House Bill 1771 would support the goal of the Department of Agriculture (DA) of raising cacao production to 100,000 metric tons (MT) by 2022 to transform the Philippines into a key player in the global market.

The bill seeks to implement a national program for the education and training of stakeholders in the cacao industry; and collection of relevant research, scientific studies, and market strategies for the proliferation of the local cacao industry.

He said the bill would also complement the law declaring Davao City as the Chocolate Capital of the Philippines, and the Davao Region as the Cacao Capital of the country.

Villafuerte said the Philippines should capitalize on the increasing global demand for cacao, which is mostly grown in the Davao Region, and should be able to meet domestic requirements to reduce importation costs for local chocolate producers.

“The climate and fertile soil in the Philippines is well suited for growing cacao. Yet, the current state of (the) cocoa business is a disappointment to the crop’s historic roots. The homegrown cacao industry has deteriorated into small to medium scale enterprises. As a result, local production is declining,” he added.

According to the DA, the increasing global demand for cacao is spurred by various factors: a rising awareness of its health benefits, expanding applications in food beverage, cosmetics, and medicine, and an increasing disposable income of the middle class.

Southern Mindanao is the country’s largest cacao-producing region with nearly 4,000 hectares dedicated to the crop, he said.

Villafuerte said although the country’s contribution at present to the global market is relatively small, the Philippines already supplies cacao to the United States, Singapore, New Zealand, and Europe.

In May, President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law declaring the city of Davao as the “Chocolate Capital of the Philippines” and the entire Davao Region (Region 11) as the “Cacao Capital of the Philippines.”

Republic Act 115471 recognizes the importance of cacao as a driver of rural development because of its potential as a raw material that can increase the country’s export earnings tremendously.

The law also recognizes cacao for putting the name of the country on the map for producing the finest chocolate beans and having provided livelihood to many small farmers in the countryside.

“In recognition of its status as the country’s biggest producer of cacao and its vital contribution in making the Philippines world-renowned and sought-after by chocolate makers from the US, Japan, and Europe, the City of Davao is hereby declared as the Chocolate Capital of the Philippines and the entire Region 11(Davao Region) as the Cacao Capital of the Philippines,” the law read. (PNA)

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