From cane to cocoa
DOZENS of the country’s brightest sugar cane technicians visited the Mossman region recently to learn about the sweet appeal of cocoa.
The 120 Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technicians were attending a conference in Palm Cove and were treated to a tour of Miallo grower Gerard Puglisi’s property to learn more about the region’s burgeoning cocoa industry.
Mr Puglisi showed delegates a plot at the Mossman Mill where 1200 trees were planted six years ago as two-inch seedlings which now stand about eight feet tall.
When asked about how he knew how many trees were on the plot, Mr Puglisi had an immediate response.
“Because I dug all the bloody holes,” he said.
The delegates were made up of existing cane growers and other farmers and people with interest in the land and cropping and came to hear why Mossman cane growers were diversifying into cocoa and if they were to begin growing cocoa would it “sweeten their bottom line”.
When quizzed on why cocoa was chosen to be grown in the region, Mr Puglisi said because a number of doomsayers said “it couldn’t be done”.
“We don’t take too kindly to people saying we can’t do the impossible here in Mossman and so a couple of us got together and decided to prove them wrong by planting some small acreage to start - to see how it would go,” Mr Puglisi said.
“And as you know growing nearly any fruit tree is a long-term venture and you need to look at the first three of four years of getting no return but we are now getting a reasonable return after six years.
“It’s certainly not a fortune at this stage with getting $700 a tonne from the average crop here in the Mossman region being just 35 tonnes but with value-adding that will soon blow out to $1000 a tonne.”
Mr Puglisi was generous with his knowledge and the future of the industry and its costs and returns before the delegates then went to see the sugar bagging plant of the mill and took a tour of the property to see his operation first-hand and get a taste the chocolate produced from Mossman-grown cocoa.