South Pacific cocoa continues to reach new heights
Wednesday, 25 June 2014 09:18

A child in Vanuatu holds an open cocoa pod (cocoa variety - criollo)ACIAR’s PARDI cocoa project continues to build the capacity of South Pacific farmers to produce reliable quantities of high quality cocoa so they can benefit from the demand for niche market chocolate and chocolate-based foods. This cocoa update gives insight into some of the project’s recent achievements in Vanuatu.

Local cocoa adds flavour to Vanuatu ice-cream

The capacity of Vanuatu’s cocoa industry has turned a corner with ‘Alternative Communities Trade in Vanuatu’ (ACTIV’s) recent and first delivery of a batch of commercial chocolate to local Italian ice cream maker ‘Gelato’, Port Vila. Ice-cream containing chocolate made from Vanuatu cocoa is sought after by tourists.  It is hoped that Vanuatu cocoa farmers will increase their stake in the ice-cream market in the coming years.

In another positive announcement for Vanuatu cocoa, local biscuit maker, Lapita, which specialises in gluten-free products, has indicated they will soon try adding Vanuatu-made chocolate to a new biscuit variety.

New cocoa opportunities for Vanuatu will also be enhanced by the opening of a chocolate factory in Port Vila in conjunction with ACTIV. The factory, which will be another first for the region, is near completion.

Gourmet chocolate making competition

Planning is underway for a chocolate making competition to be held in Vanuatu in late 2014. With support and advice through the PARDI cocoa project, farmers are growing and preparing their beans for inclusion in unique chocolate recipes. The newly-created chocolate samples will vary in taste according to cocoa bean variety and source, i.e. growing region and participating farmer group. Popular local chefs and industry leaders will form an official chocolate review panel and members of the public will be invited to help judge the quality and flavour of chocolate entries.

This competition aims to promote the importance of improving cocoa farming and processing standards to enhance cocoa bean quality and flavour. Competitors will achieve recognition for their beans given the high standards being set through the competition. PARDI researchers and local industry leaders believe this will ultimately increase opportunities and link more farmers to niche market chocolate makers.

Workshops address cocoa production skills

Building on industry training workshops held in early 2013 in Epi, PARDI has held another series of capacity building workshops for Vanuatu farmers and cocoa industry representatives at Malekula, Erromango and Efate.  The aim of these workshops is to boost the capacity of farmers and local industry to produce quality cocoa for niche market chocolate markets.

Topics covered include: best agricultural practices, cocoa processing methods and quality control practices, and more targeted training with selected producers on how to better manage their plantations (pruning) and awareness on best processing practises.

Solar drying strategies for Vanuatu

Solar drying strategies have been developed with Vanuatu stakeholders - The Organic Cocoa Grower’s Association of Vanuatu (CGA), ACTIV and the Vanuatu Department of Trade and Industry - to address bean smokiness. The strategy includes recommendations for industry representatives to take part in a study visit to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands where solar drying is providing considerable benefits for cocoa farmers. It also outlines the need to trial different models of dryers being used in the South Pacific. This strategy will help foster the development and use of solar drying techniques in the region to ultimately improve cocoa bean quality.

Cooperative efforts key to success

These cocoa project developments would not be possible without the ongoing involvement of ACTIV, CGA, The Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), The University of Adelaide and The Vanuatu Ministry of Trade and Industry.

Contacts for more information:

Project Leader, Tevita Kete: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Project Researcher, Professor Randy Stringer: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

PARDI Communications, Julie Lloyd: M - +0415 799 890

Links:

ACIAR Blog: http://aciarblog.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/champions-for-chocolate-smallholder.html

PARDI Newsletter: http://www.spc.int/lrd/pardi-publications/pardi-newsletter

Photo caption:
A child in Vanuatu holds an open cocoa pod (cocoa variety - criollo)