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