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Coops unite in multi-million investment in cacao farming

| by: Xerxes Alkuino

Coop Sugbo Coalition, an alliance of three local cooperatives, plans to transform Cebu into a top-producing cacao province.

At least 500,000 seedlings of cacao were planted in Lamac, Pinamungajan covering about 500 hectares (ha) of land.

The Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative also targeted additional 700 ha. of farm lands to be planted with cacao.

Another 200 ha. of cacao plantations are to be set up by Sibonga Multi-Purpose Cooperative and Compostela Market Vendors Cooperative (Comavenco) within the year.

The investment is in collaboration with Landbank of the Philippines, which shelled out a start-up capital of Php 65 million loan for the industry.

Kennemer Foods International, Inc. (KFI), a producer and marketer of foods and agricultural products, is the “assured market” of the cooperatives.

“We are very serious about this because we want the farmers to be very productive,” said Representative Cresente Paez of Coop-National Confederation of Cooperatives (Coop-Natcco) party-list.

Paez, who convened the group, said the business venture should increase Cebu’s agricultural production with focus on cacao.

He said the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) had already subsidized cacao farming in its National Greening Program. He, however, appealed that they must be given good variety of inputs so that the farmers’ efforts will not be wasted.

KFI Agri-Credit Head Virginio Jamon said Kennemer is in the business of buying dried fermented cacao beans. “At the moment there are no quality dried fermented beans. That is why we partnered with cooperatives to ensure that there will be such kind of products in the future,” he said.

Jamon informed that the world needs at least one million metric tons of cacao beans but the country is only producing 6,000 to 8,000 metric tons.

He added that Cebu also is a market of cacao as there are existing small cacao processing facilities here. “They can even produce chocolates but they get their source from Davao,” he said.

KFI needs at least 2,000 ha. of cacao plantation in Cebu.

Bon Alivio of Comavenco said most of the farmers were not aware of the benefits of the cacao industry. He hoped that once they will see the result of their program, more farmers will help address the demand.

He explained that cacao is no different from planting other commodities. What is only needed, he said, is the attitude of the farmers.

The three cooperatives were the pioneering groups that have invested in cacao farming.

Alivio also asked the participation of Philippine Coconut Authority, Department of Agriculture and DENR to join the multipartite agreement. He reasoned they might have programs that are compatible with cacao farming.

“This is what we have been waiting for,” said Emma Tallada of the support from the local government.

As president of Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative, which has 54 thousand members, she thanked the Capitol for providing a venue for their assembly.

She hopes that Cebu will be successful in cacao farming like Davao which is the top producer of cacao in the country.

She said a cacao farmer only plants once and may continuously harvest until up to 30 years. In 18 to 24 months, he may start harvesting every two weeks.

Jamon also stated that the farmer can earn up to Php 200,000 net income per hectare per year, which is better than coconut, oil palm and mango.

The Capitol also looked at cacao as one of the priority commodities that should be considered in its effort to get a farm-to-market road project from the National Government through the Philippine Rural Development Program.