Geneva, Switzerland – Department of Trade and Industry’s Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) – Geneva tested the cadmium level of Philippine cacao beans and the results are encouraging!
“Davao-sourced fermented cacao beans have low cadmium level that is well within the acceptable values, providing a big opportunity for Filipino cacao farmers,” said Michiel Hendriksz, Executive Director of FarmStrong Foundation.
The test was made in light of the European Union’s (EU) new limits on the cadmium levels in cocoa products by 1 January 2019 (EU No 488/2014) that could pose a serious threat to many smallholder cacao farmers, and present a challenge to chocolate producers.
“While Switzerland is not part of the EU, it adopts the EU General Food Law and exports majority of its chocolate production to the EU. Swiss consumers also have the highest per capita rate of chocolate consumption worldwide,” according to Mr Jean-Benoit Charrin, Director of Operations of FarmStrong Foundation.
Cadmium is a heavy metal found both through natural occurrence and from industrial and agricultural resources. The maximum levels for cadmium in food have existed in EU legislation since 2001. Thus, to reduce exposure levels to the metal in certain food groups where exposure is highest or where the consumer groups were most vulnerable, new recommendations for maximum exposure levels in a range of infant products and cocoa-based products were released. Three maximum levels have been set for chocolate, where the strictest maximum levels apply to chocolate varieties most eaten by children, while a maximum level is also set for cocoa powder destined for direct consumption.
Cacao beans from Latin America are particularly affected. Previous research has indicated higher levels of lead and cadmium in cacao beans in Latin America compared to beans from West Africa. Cacao beans from West Africa, however, are considered “bulk beans” and lack the flavour Swiss chocolatiers are looking for.
The low cadmium level of Philippine cacao beans brings opportunities for Philippine cacao farmers and producers, particularly in premium products (specialty, fine flavour and certified chocolate) as Swiss chocolate manufacturers look for new sources of cacao beans to protect its international reputation for high quality with many famous international brands.
The Department of Trade and Industry, through the various foreign trade posts, supports Philippine cacao farmers in demonstrating significant progress in the Philippine cacao sectors by aiming at niche markets for high quality and speciality cocoa and chocolate products. Government agencies and farmers/producers need to work hand-in-hand to be able to supply high quality Criollo/Trinitario cacao beans with good traceability and superior quality.
This positive development is also timely in light of the DTI’s thrust to upgrade the Philippine cacao industry in the global value chain. The cadmium level could also feed in the discussion during the Philippines’ hosting of the Asia-Pacific Cacao Congress scheduled from September 15 to 17 at the SMX Convention Center.
PTIC-Geneva works with Swiss cacao distributors, buyers and sourcing organisations, as well cocoa sustainability specialists. FarmStrong Foundation (http://farmstrong-foundation.org/) is a Swiss public interest organisation that promotes resilient, structured, rural economic development through integrated sustainable agricultural production systems in cocoa growing communities. The cadmium test was done by Intertek Group, a multinational inspection, product testing and certification company headquartered in the UK with testing facilities in 100 countries including Switzerland and the Philippines.
Written by: TSO Magnolia Uy, PTIC-Geneva.