By Bethanie Harriman – EMTV News, Lae
When a little known cooperative in the Lower Watut area won an international cocoa excellence award in Paris, it brought to attention Papua New Guinea’s potential in cocoa export and the lack of support the industry has received over the years.
Founder of the Wals Cooperative, Francis Anton, was behind the quality beans that put Papua New Guinea fifth in the Cocoa of Excellence International Award in Paris last year.
“When we won the price, [the] Agmark boss saw the news in the paper and told his people in Lae to make contact with us,” Anton says.
There is a renewed interest in cocoa and the stakes are high; international exporters want a slice of the quality cocoa that’s still untapped and local exporters are wary of the competition.
Exporters also are bidding for a slice of the Wafi-Golpu Project Cocoa Sustainability program that will happen as the mine develops.
On June 22, the long time PNG cocoa exporter Agmark released an advert calling for support from local farmers. Agmark has a long history in PNG’s cocoa industry and in the last eight years of the pod borer disease it has stood with farmers during very low export volumes.
Today the numbers are picking up and so is competition, though the company welcomes that competition
Agmark’s Export Manager, James Narokai, says foreign exporters are here to make money and not invest into the economy.
“Most overseas companies will be here, but they won’t invest a lot into the cocoa industry in PNG. They are more or less in PNG to make money,” says Narokai.
Agmark are making a strong representation for local exporters and doing their best to ensure that revenue from the sale of cocoa overseas comes back to PNG.
However, there are agribusiness experts who say that international exporters have market access to Europe and revenue from cocoa exports coming into the country are guaranteed.
While the competition is between the local and international exporters, either way it is good for the farmer who is looking for a better price to sell cocoa beans from PNG.