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Boost to cocoa industry in Bougainville

Bougainville cocoa farmers received a total of K7million support package from the Commodity Support Facility (CSF) to boost output, improve quality and gain better market access.

The Commodity Support Facility offers grants and targeted assistance to cocoa farmers, dryers, fermenters and traders from across the autonomous region and establishes new farmer field schools to help smallholders lift production.

The CSF is a joint economic development initiative of the Autonomous Bougainville Government, (ABG) and the Governments of PNG, Australia and New Zealand.

ABG Minister for Primary Industries Nicholas Darku said the CSF would help Bougainville’s cocoa industry recover from the impact of the cocoa pod borer.

“We have two ingredients on Bougainville. One is fertile soil; the other is hard working people. With this support, I know the industry will come back. We will increase our production and ensure Bougainville cements its reputation for producing fine flavor cocoa,” said Minister Darku.

Measures will include financial literacy and business management training, and a competition to design improved cocoa dryers and fermentaries. The Facility, will in the future, expands to support other primary industries prioritized by the ABG, such as coconut or marine resources.

National Coordination Office for Bougainville Affairs acting Director, John Avira said cocoa was a very important cash crop for Bougainville.

(Picture; Courtesy of Bougainville Copper Limited)

“Alongside the CSF support, it is equally critical to have the access roads to bring the product to the market by the farmers. Partnership with other funding sources such as National members DSIP and PSIP could be explored to build roads to ensure the farmers are provided access to market,” said Mr Avira.

Australian High Commission Minister Counselor Rod Hilton said the CSF would work with private sector partners to ensure assistance was well targeted.

“We want to ensure that support goes to projects that strengthen Bougainville’s cocoa industry, and contribute to sustainable improvements in production and quality in all regions of Bougainville both small and big business and communities and disadvantage groups.,” he said.

New Zealand High Commission Counselor Development, Kathleen Pearce, said the CSF would help everyday Bougainvilleans earn more income and provide revenue for the ABG.

“Cocoa is Bougainville’s most important cash crop, involving about two-thirds of Bougainville families. Strengthening this industry will provide widespread benefits for the whole of the ABG, bringing in more money and providing much-needed employment opportunities,” said Ms Pearce.

 A recent study of Bougainville’s cocoa industry found farmers could comfortably triple their production by using the right planting materials and improving their management practices.

Agribusiness consultant David Anderson said they could go from about 200-500kg per hectare, to an average of 1500kg per hectare.

“But the genetic potential of the clones that are being provided to farmers is even higher; up to 2000kg or even 3000kg a hectare,” said Mr. Anderson.

Prior to the Bougainville Crisis, the now-autonomous region exported about 30,000 tonnes of cocoa. Production had recovered to about 26,000 tonnes by 2009, when the cocoa pod borer hit the industry driving production down to about 13,000 tonnes today.


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