Inaugural cocoa show rewards excellence in Papua New Guinea cocoa production

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Cocoa is Papua New Guinea’s third-largest agricultural export. The inaugural PNG Cocoa Warwagira show held recently in Kokopo focused on improving the quality of cocoa production to better meet the requirements of international markets.

Participants in the inaugural Cocoa of Excellence show Credit: Meriba Tulo

Farmers came from far and wide to witness the 2017 Air Niugini PNG Cocoa Warwagira held in Kokopo from May 25-27. ‘Warwagira’ means a show or display in Kuanua from the Tolai people of East New Britain.

The purpose of the show was to find the best beans to represent PNG in the International Cocoa of Excellence show in Paris, France, at the end of the year.

‘The show identified and rewarded cocoa farmers in various categories.’

Papua New Guinea has previously won a number of awards for the fine flavor with its plantation samples. A smallholder from the lower Watut farmers of Morobe was rated as having one of the top five best cocoa beans in the world.

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Karamui farmers Credit: Meriba Tulo

The show identified and rewarded cocoa farmers in various categories such as best cocoa quality, best fermentary facility and best managed block.

New cocoa farmer Grace Klembasa from West Sepik won gold when her cocoa was judged the best amongst the 36 finalists. It was selected from more than 158 samples submitted from farmers around PNG.

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Klembasa is a smallholder with 2000 trees. It was her first harvest that won her gold.

Kulkul Plantation on Karkar Island, Madang, got silver. The bronze went to John Yalabing, a small holder in lower Watut in Morobe.

Ramandu Plantation in East New Britain and Madang’s Kulili Plantation were also commended for the quality of their samples.

Awards

There were also awards to schools for students and teachers who managed cocoa blocks under the pilot cocoa curriculum, which was trialed in East New Britain schools.

Vunamami Farmers Vocational Centre won the prize for the best school cocoa project. George Brown High School came in second and Kamanakam Primary School was in third place.

‘The Cocoa Warwagira aimed at educating cocoa farmers on the importance of maintaining and improving cocoa quality.’

Air Niugini was the main sponsor of the event. It was supported by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access program (PHAMA), in partnership with the Cocoa Board of PNG and the World Bank’s Productive Partnerships in Agriculture Project (PPAP).

Judges

The Cocoa Warwagira aimed at educating farmers on the importance of maintaining and improving quality to meet international market requirements.

There were six international chocolate judges. Head Juror Martin Christy, a representative from the International Chocolate Awards, said PNG’s cocoa could compete with the best in the world in terms of its great flavours and the quality of beans.

‘The participation of the expert judges is a great opportunity for market exposure.’

But he said more work was needed to improve fermentation, adding that PNG cocoa farmers were aware they must correct this issue to sell consistently into high-end markets.

‘The participation of the expert judges is a great opportunity for market exposure, helps promote buyer linkages, and raises industry awareness on quality standards,’ said PHAMA PNG Country Manager, Sidney Suma.

He said the Cocoa Warwagira was an opportunity for the local industry to identify unique flavors and reward quality-conscious producers.

Private sector

In line with the government’s efforts to grow the private sector through supporting SMEs, the Cocoa Board is assisting cooperatives, producer groups and female farmers to set up nucleus enterprises to enable better control of quality and act as focal points for training and marketing.

Organising committee chairman and executive manager, field operations Dr Arnold Parapi said the event is designed to motivate and educate farmers on the importance of quality.

‘We are not a big player, but we have the quality in genetic material, and excellent climatic and soil conditions to produce quality cocoa.

‘We have issues with processing and making sure that we follow those international best practices and regimes to get fine flavor. At the moment we have high smoke taint cocoa, resulting in our cocoa being rated at 90 percent fine flavor.’

A major commodity

Cocoa beans Credit: Meriba Tulo

Cocoa is PNG’s third major commodity export after palm oil and coffee. It is valued at K360 million per year and supports a 150,000 households. There are 14 growing regions across the country.

Production is dominated by smallholders. It is an important rural-based commodity that provides direct economic benefit to 150,000 households in PNG.

As such, it is a significant contributor to rural livelihoods, employing about 31 per cent of the labour force in rural communities.

The Cocoa Board of PNG, the regulatory body, has embarked on a new strategy to promote the development of micro agribusiness enterprises interested in selling to bean-to-bar processors and bulk markets.

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