Cocoa farms could boost Pacific economies
A New Zealand chocolatier says Pacific nations have the potential to contend South America and West Africa as producers of high grade cocoa beans.
A New Zealand chocolatier says Pacific nations have the potential to contend with Central and South America as producers of high grade cocoa beans.
Cacao exports from the region are typically used for confectionery for which the quality is not as important.
The Wellington Chocolate Factory's Gabe Davidson, shipped a tonne of cocoa beans from Bougainville grower James Rutana to New Zealand.
He told Daniela Maoate-Cox Mr Rutana's beans are top notch and Pacific countries should explore growing cacao for craft chocolate makers.
GABE DAVIDSON: They get the same price regardless of the quality and James is very passionate about high quality beans and was on the verge of giving up when I met with him because he could not see the point in putting all this effort into growing these unique varieties, and high yielding varieties, and naturally pest resistant varieties when he was just going to get seven kina per kilo which is about NZD$3.50. He had no idea there was a new revolution in chocolate like what happened to speciality coffee when people start talking about single origin, the same thing's happening to chocolate so there are loads of smaller and medium sized chocolate factories who are making chocolate from the bean, opening up around the world.
DANIELA MAOATE-COX: So there's real business potential here?
GD: Yes, and hopefully, well it's James' dream to prove agriculture is a sustainable alternative to reopening the mine which was at the centre of their civil war, so I think agriculture for Bougainville is definitely the way forward.
DM-C: Because repairing the economy in Bougainville, growing these beans and getting a better price could be a way to repair the economy and get that up and running again and if that happens, then they could make a stronger case for independence from Papua New Guinea, so has James talked to you about that at all, is that on his mind or is it something in the back of your mind?
GD: Well he has written an entire economic plan for Bougainville around this and focusing mostly on cocoa but also the crops that you can grow as shade crops above the cocoa, there's nut trees and also he's growing rice in between some of the cocoa as well so he has an economic plan which can potentially bring an extra three billion kina per year into the Bougainville economy which will give them their independence. The difficulty is getting his message out there.
DM-C: So a s the craft chocolate business grows, is that something that could help grow those cocoa growers in the Pacific who are much closer to us than West Africa?
GD: Yeah, typically craft chocolate makers will source from Central and South America but actually anywhere 15 degrees North or South of the equator you can grow cocoa. So we've released a Samoa bar, we've explored cocoa in Solomon Islands. We're looking at an opportunity to start a small plantation of a single variety in the Cook Islands and obviously Bougainville. Papua New Guinea is getting more well known for its cocoa and other craft chocolate makers are starting to get some PNG mainland cocoa varieties out there too. So there's no reason why we can't work with these farmers in the South Pacific to try get the quality up to the standard that is for example, Peru or Venezuela which are known around the world to have these really unique characteristics. So that's what we're trying to do, is to find and work with the farmers, these new and interesting strains of cacao and showcase them to the rest of the world.
To embed this content on your own webpage, cut and paste the following: