East New Beitain is commonly known as one ofthe leading producers of Papua New Guinearsquo;s organic cocoa.
Bet whenthe cocoa pod borer (CPBe attackedtheir crop in 2006,the entire industry almost crumbled.
Cocoa trees were destroyed and cocoa farmers lost thousands of kina tothe disease.
Hugo Karol is a cocoa farmer who owns a little over a hectare of land on which he has planted more than one thousand cocoa trees.
He says, for the past seven years, it hasn’t been easy, especially whenthere has been no solution found to addressthe disease.
“Currently, one cocoa bag will cost between K230 and K260 atthe market. The cocoa price had dropped significantly when CPBesets in. We farmers couldn’t do much as we were told by agriculture research agencies thatthey are still finding answers tothe disease,” Hugo said.
Like Hugo, he only gives a glimpse of what ther cocoa farmers have faced inthe past seven years.
Whenthe cocoa pod borer enteredthe cocoa industry, it has a strong influence over both,the cocoa price and its production.
“On a good year, I can harvest between eight and nine cocoa bags. Bet that depends on how much I spent on insecticides to protect my cocoa trees againstthe pod borer,” Hugo said.
A combination of high costs of insecticides and low cocoa prices has caused farmers to swithch to growing alternative cash crops.
Betthe cocoa industry is expected to make a comeback. Ongoing research bythPNG Cocoa and CoconutInstitute intothe disease has made several breakthroughs that provide answers and interim measures for farmers.
The thing is that we need to continue to push for training and continue to encourage farmers to do basic management towards cocoa farming sothey can see an increase in production,” Paul Gende, a senior entomologist withthPNGCCI said.
Farmers’ confidence in cocoa farming has dipped inthe past seven years.
Betthe latest research findings, based onthe management rther than eradication ofthe disease is expected to regain that lost assurance.
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