Sweet suc­cess looms for PNG co­coa

An in­ter­na­tional del­e­ga­tion of high-end co­coa buy­ers has toured PNG, lik­ing what they see. Ben Pack­ham re­ports.

Paradise - - Strictly Business -

Cal­i­for­nian choco­late maker Brad Kintzer plunges his hands into a box of half-fer­mented co­coa beans, grop­ing around in the hot, sticky mess. There’s a smell in the air that’s thick and sweet, with just a hint of vine­gar.

He doesn’t need to have his hands in there; he just wants to get closer to the beans. He wants to see and ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­thing about the co­coa that he’ll take home to his San Fran­cisco fac­tory to trans­form into lux­ury, sin­gle-ori­gin choco­late.

Kintzer is on Pa­pua New Guinea’s Karkar Is­land, about 30 kilo­me­tres off­shore from Madang Province, with a group of in­ter­na­tional co­coa buy­ers search­ing for re­li­able sup­plies of top-qual­ity beans.

The co­coa trees here grow un­der slen­der co­conut palms, set against the blue– green wa­ters of the Bis­mark Sea.

Welsh­man Mar­tyn O’Dare rushes about try­ing to pho­to­graph the scene, which seems to pro­vide the per­fect mar­ket­ing im­age for his new busi­ness – Is­lands Choco­late and Co­coa.

But the view is too vast and the co­conut trees too tall to cap­ture ev­ery­thing in a sin­gle frame.

Also on the tour are Bel­gian co­coa buyer Mathieu Bours and his client Raoul Boulanger, an award-win­ning French choco­late maker.

The group is in PNG with the Pa­cific Hor­ti­cul­tural and Agri­cul­tural Mar­ket Ac­cess Pro­gram; an Aus­tralian Gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tive to help Pa­cific na­tions max­imise their ex­port op­por­tu­ni­ties.

PNG co­coa sells at about mar­ket price. But the group says it’s com­pa­ra­ble to Mada­gas­can co­coa, which com­mands a pre­mium of $US800–$900 a tonne.

“Right now I would say that PNG co­coa has the po­ten­tial to be some of best co­coa in the world, hands down,” Kintzer says.

PNG co­coa has the po­ten­tial to be some of best co­coa in the world, hands down.

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