January 04, 2017 12:09 AM

By: Maricyn A. De los Santos

THE Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is encouraging farmers in Western Visayas (WV) to plant and process cacao.

"The demand for cacao products and chocolates are substantial. Surprisingly, the producers of chocolates import their cacao seeds from Africa," said Provincial Director Diosdado Cadena of DTI-Iloilo.

Western Visayas is part of the national cluster for cacao development, with Iloilo having the highest potential for cacao production, followed by Aklan, Antique and Capiz.

"For those who want to invest in cacao production, it has a lot of potential," he said, and assured farmers and investors that it is worth an investment.

The DTI and the Department of Agriculture (DA) are working together to improve cacao production in the country.

In the region, the DTI and DA has started the inventory of cacao farmers, processors and buyers to quantify WV's existing and potential capacity to produce cacao, and process it into tablea and later into fine chocolate.

"We want a steady supply of raw materials; it is important that we plant cacao trees now," Cadena said.

For this year, around half a million cacao seedlings will be distributed in Panay.

In Iloilo, Cabatuan is popular for its tablea.

Cabatuan-based MSME Sunburst Balay Tablea is now experiencing the potential of the high-value crop while at the same time, helping preserve and promote the Ilonggo's love for tablea.

Catherine Taleon, owner, started the business with P10,000 capital. Now, it provides employment to local cacao growers.

Per DTI data, the total imports of cocoa and cocoa products in 2012 amounted to 3,662 tons, with CIF value of almost US$ 12 million. On the other hand, exports in 2012 totaled 512 tons, with a total FOB value of US$ 1.8 million.

Industry experts see big potential for tablea and cocoa products as there is an increasing number of cafes and restaurants offering chocolate drinks. The trend towards wellness and a healthy lifestyle is seen as another opportunity for cocoa, as it is being positioned and marketed as a health food given its natural contents and health benefits.

Per DTI, it is projected that by 2020, there is an additional one million tons of cacao needed to meet global demand, while an additional 30,000 tons are needed to meet local demand.


"As such, cacao growers and cocoa manufacturers in the country are well-positioned to translate these market opportunities into a profitable reality," it said.