FROM BACK­YARD TO WORLD STAGE: YOLANDA AGRI­CUL­TURAL RE­HA­BIL­I­TA­TION TAR­GETS CA­CAO WORLD MAR­KET

Agriculture - - Big Demand - BY ELMER V. RECUERDO

WHEN TYPHOON YOLANDA top­pled banana and co­conut plants on his two-hectare farm, 62-year old Lendo Martinez was in a quandary: he had a loan to pay back, and the or­ga­ni­za­tion to which he be­longed had a con­tract to sup­ply a com­pany pro­cess­ing banana chips for ex­port.

“It was a sure mar­ket and my in­come from banana was enough to send my three grand­chil­dren to school,” he said. “When you have a big mar­ket, you get an as­sur­ance of con­tin­u­ous in­come. All you need to do is to work hard, and you will earn.”

So when a mu­nic­i­pal agri­cul­ture of­fi­cial came to his area to dis­trib­ute ca­cao seedlings, Martinez’s first ques­tion was, “[Will] we have a steady buyer [for ca­cao] when we har­vest?”

Since 2015, gov­ern­ment and non-gov­ern­ment agen­cies that are as­sist­ing in the liveli­hood restora­tion of Yolanda-af­fected ar­eas in East­ern Visayas have been pro­mot­ing the plant­ing of ca­cao to aug­ment the in­come of farm­ers while they await the re­cov­ery of the badly dev­as­tated co­conut in­dus­try.

“There is…over­whelm­ing en­thu­si­asm from dif­fer­ent stake­hold­ers on the prospects of a ca­cao in­dus­try in the re­gion,” says Cyn­thia Nier­ras, re­gional di­rec­tor of the Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try, in an in­ter­view. “We see the de­mand, we have the re­sources to meet the de­mand.”

Ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture (DA), there is a guar­an­teed mar­ket for ca­cao be­cause lo­cal de­mand alone far ex­ceeds pro­duc­tion. Philip­pine ca­cao pro­duc­tion stands at 10,000 met­ric tons (MT) an­nu­ally, while con­sump­tion is at 50,000 MT. The deficit is im­ported from ca­cao-pro­duc­ing coun­tries like In­done­sia, which is the third big­gest pro­ducer in the world.

Leony Mar­quez pos­ing with the ever-bear­ing BR25 or Red Cri­ollo ca­cao from Brazil at Sarian Farm in Teresa, Rizal.

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