From cane to co­coa

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - PAUL MIL­TON BUT­LER

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.

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