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