Honiara : 8 February 2017
Letter to the Editor, Solomon Star and Island Sun Newspapers.
With cocoa being a significant export earner for the Solomon Islands, with an average of 5,000 tonnes exported annually, generating around USD$12 million, it is encouraging to have read that a global agri-business company, called Olam International Ltd, is showing interest to assist local farmers.
Yesterday Pacific Horticultural and Agriculture Market Access Programme in collaboration with Olam International Ltd organised a first-ever training for local cocoa farmers and exporters as part of the ongoing assistance toward the country’s cocoa industry.
Olam is made up of over 62,500 employees and has built a leadership position in many businesses including cocoa, coffee, cashew, rice and cotton.
The company is operating all over the world including the Pacific region and Papua New Guinea is one of the countries that is claimed to have benefited well from Olam.
Olam endeavours to generate economic prosperity, contribute positively to social wellbeing and manage stewardship of the environment by providing sustainable agricultural products and food ingredients.
In recent weeks, several owners of solar cocoa driers in the Solomon Islands also attended a workshop designed to increase sales of “sun-dried” cocoa into the lucrative global boutique market.
A demonstration exercise, during the workshop, offered valuable opportunities for cocoa farmers from five provinces to share learning with cocoa specialists and MAL extension officers.
The workshop was one of a series of continued efforts initiated by the Australia and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Programme towards improving the quality of Solomon Islands cocoa.
More than 50 participants – including 7 women – from the provinces of Makira, Malaita, Western, Isabel and Guadalcanal attended the workshop which was facilitated in partnership with the Rural Development Program (RDP), Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL), Commodities Export Marketing Authority (CEMA) and industry partners.
Following several analyses and surveys on the scope of market access for Solomon Islands cocoa, PHAMA reportedly identified that smoke contamination of cocoa beans was a limitation to increasing exports to the higher value boutique markets in the United States, United Kingdom, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and other parts of the world.
“Sun drying” of beans was recommended as an alternative process to address the contamination issue and already solar driers have been established at 15 locations around the country.
The farmers at the recent workshop considered ways that the solar drier owners could collaborate to sell their high-quality cocoa into the boutique international markets – helping to meet growing international demand for high quality Solomon Islands cocoa and improving returns to growers and their families.
Last week, a report, however, mentioned that the country’s cocoa export volume is still low despite the potential to make improvement.
The Cocoa Industry Adviser of the Pacific Horti-cultural and Agricultural Market Access Programme (PHAMA), Ms Hanna Wheaton, confirmed the country’s cocoa export volume was currently at 500 tonnes per year but she said the cocoa industry requires more time, commitment and proper management, adding that PHAMA is currently working with Solomon Islands farmers and cocoa exporters with programmes that will improve the country’s export volume.
Let us hope that providing technical training to educate farmers on how to properly manage their farms will increase the yielding of cocoa beans and further boost the export potential of the local cocoa industry.