By Lillian Sopera Keneqa – EMTV News, Port Moresby
East New Britain’s Pomio cocoa farmers are gaining momentum in their efforts to break into new global markets with about 100 farmers of Poio Ward in the Melkoi LLG that have been engaged in the last 8 to 10 months in producing organic cocoa beans, to make its entrance into the Japanese market in the coming months.
This is a partnership with the PNG Government and the United Nations Development Program that is now seeing great success.
UNDP Head of Environment Program, Edward Vrkic said, “We have got an international partner which is Tachibana and Co, a large confectionary company and they are working with us and with communities to develop not only the export opportunities but also the downstream product which is chocolate.”
He also added that UNDP hopes to help increase opportunities for livelihoods, take the pressure off PNG’s natural resources and forestry exploitation, start developing and using local knowledge and skills with a view to improving people’s lives by creating employment opportunities and hopefully a fantastic chocolate market in PNG.
Tachibana and Co is globally known for its confectionery and chocolate products. Based in Japan, the large confectionary company has been greatly impressed by the cocoa produced in Pomio. However, they have very strict market requirements and because of this, the UNDP is working with the farmers in the Poio Ward to perfect the model of using the solar cocoa dryer before they roll it out into other communities.
UNDP Pomio Focal Point, Raymon Joshua says, “the cocoa must be produced in a way that it is not tainted with smoke on the fire, so we came up with the solar cocoa dryer.”
These efforts were given a significant boost with a second of K100, 000 funding provided by the Pomio District Development Authority which follows a previous investment made in September last year.
This money will support the continuing efforts of farmers in the Melkoi LLG to construct a second solar cocoa dryer. Pomio DDA CEO, Peter Peniat said, “This project will change the livelihood of the people, will empower the people economically and in a big way shift the mindset.”
Deputy Provincial Administrator, Levi Mano added, “The Cocoa Project has given them hope that they have to conserve the environment and provide an alternative ways of increasing their earning capacity.”
The first shipment of organic cocoa beans will be exported to Japan in mid-July, while Tachibana and Co CEO will be travelling to Papua New Guinea for specific market agreements and formalities.
Upon the signing, two tons (32 bags) of organically dried cocoa beans will be exported to Japan to be produced into different confectionary and chocolate products.
With each bag weighing 63.5 kilograms, Mr. Joshua said “We already negotiated for $5.00 per KG. It’s quite high for the local market we have here. It’s wonderful for the farmers.”