LUNA, Apayao – Congress representative Eleonor Bulot-Begtang encouraged cacao farmers in the province to continue the production and marketing of cacao, stating that it is about time for Apayao to showcase one of its major products to the market.
In her message during the 28th Foundation Day of the province, Bulut-Begtang pointed out the similarity of the climate of the province with that of Mindanao, particularly of Davao, which is the leading producer of cacao in the country.
“Last year I was invited to go to Davao by a DA Undersecretary and it so happened that there was a forum on cacao and I felt jealous because we started the cacao production project through the support of the Department of Agriculture and having a similar climactic condition, we can do what they are doing there,” Begtang-Bulut explained.
In 2013, the Cordillera office of the Department of Agriculture Cordillera (DA-CAR) started its support to the province under the cacao production program by initially providing trainings, distributed farm inputs, built a nursery that would produce quality planting materials, and set-up a bud wood garden plantation which is the source for the certified mother plant which produces three main varieties of cacao plants, the forastero, criollo, and trinitario.
“They are now producing chocolates in Davao and we are starting to do the same. We can now compete with other producers, it’s just how we can now increase the volume,” the lawmaker added.
DA-CAR High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) Agriculture Technologist and Regional Focal Person for Cacao Rolando Renegado explained that based on the Land Suitability Map of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management, the municipalities of Conner, Pudtol, Santa Marcela, and Calanasan were identified as the areas highly suitable for cacao plantation, with the remaining five provinces of the Cordillera and the city of Baguio having existing cacao farming areas.
In 2017, DA-CAR provided a cacao processing center in Conner equipped with a roaster, solar drier, fermentation box, and a winnover to cut or remove husks or shells from the beans under the cacao production program.
“The cacao in the Cordillera is a promising emerging crop which is why we want to inform the public that there is cacao in our region. In fact during the 2018 Cacao Summit Meeting, the Cordillera region was ranked number 1 among other entries nationwide in the chocolate-making competition,” Renegado said.
The regional office of the agriculture department is currently conducting an inventory to know the status of cacao trees for the department to have an estimate on how many tons the region can produce in one year, including a geo-tagging of cacao trees.
Aside from the inventory process, the department is also in the process of assessing applicants to determine whether a civil society organization (CSO) is eligible to implement programs and/or projects of the department through available funds after meeting all the set criteria and requirements. A CSO Certificate of Accreditation shall be issued as proof of official recognition.
The topography and climate of the Cordillera is very ideal for growing cacao as cacao is a forest dweller, accustomed to a rainforest environment with loam, sandy loam or clay loam soil, and a pH level slightly acidic.