Chocolate makers want more of the sweet stuff
With the Philippine demand for cacao still much higher than local production, industry players are calling for sustainability of output as well as traceability and higher quality of produce farm.
Data from the Department of Agriculture shows that domestic production of just about 10,000 metric tons yearly is barely one-third of the 33,000-ton demand.
Such level of production has to improve since demand is expected to keep growing, says chocolatier Patricia Limpe, owner of Antonio Pueo Incorporada.
Studies show that nine of 10 people eat chocolates and chocolate-related food items. In the Philippines, cacao is not only used for making chocolate bars and candies but also for cooking (think chocolate porridge or champorado), as a drink (cocoa and cocoa-based drinks), and as a sauce for snacks such as churros (a type of pastry dipped in chocolate sauce) and rice cakes.
“We notice, however, that local production is not really growing and this needs to be addressed to support chocolate makers, which will then provide the income for farmers to plant more,” Limpe says.
“It’s a cycle that we hope will result in growing the whole industry and encourage more people to invest in cacao,” she adds.
Ever bullish about cacao, Limpe believes efforts are under way to boost the cacao industry and that the business environment should be positive in the years ahead.
“There will always be a demand for high-quality chocolate food or drinks, if we can have these easily available and at reasonable prices,” she says.
Antonio Pueo offers original, dark Spanish-era-type chocolates as well as milk chocolate in tablea form.
The company makes Filipino chocolate breakfast favorites as well, such as the champorado, chocolate oatmeal porridge, and churros with chocolate dip.
For institutional clients, the company makes customized products such as ready-to-drink hot lattes and white chocolate mocha drinks, dark chocolate champorado, special confections such as dark chocolate truffles, and gift packs for corporate giveaways.
“We also have modern offerings like the baking-lessons-in-a-box series. Each box has the complete chocolate cake mixes, and the chocolate cookie mixes,” Limpe says.
The company buys all supplies from domestic producers or Manila-based importers.
“As we buy from accredited suppliers, they help us by making sure we get new stock,” Limpe says.
“We do have plans to expand the business but we can only do this with our new products, and partly that is determined by the supply. If we can get the volume and quality we need,” she says.
Tablea maker Raquel Choa, known as the “Chocolate Queen of Cebu,” says her company is focused on specialty chocolate products. As such, its demand for cacao is still small enough to be sourced from around Cebu province.
Mindanao is also a nearby source of cacao, she says. However, as cacao trees age and demand grows, there will be a need for more cacao sources in the future, she adds.
Besides encouraging higher farm output, however, there is a need to ensure that farmers’ planting materials are certified, registered, and are of high quality, says Josephine V. Ramos, managing director of Organization for Partnerships, Teamworks, and Initiatives on Opportunities for Nature Stewards (Options) Inc.
Options is a non-profit organization that works on the development of coconut, coffee, and cacao communities in the country.
Hence, Options in Davao and Zamboanga del Norte implemented an initiave dubbed “Cacao Industry Sustainability Program: Pilot Project on Traceability for Sustainability,” with support from the Bureau of Agricultural Research and the Philippine Agriculture and Resources Research Foundation Inc.
The project is aimed at establishing the foundation of a sustainability program for the Philippine cacao industry in the context of a “traceability for sustainability” production system that will prepare local farmers in producing traceable cacao.
Ramos said traceability matters in the drive for sustainability of the cacao industry because it helps all players in the supply chain know which segments need improving, from farming to transporting, processing, packaging, and selling.
Traceability can also pave the way for certification of sustainable approaches to cacao growing as well as certification as a mark of food safety.
“The chocolate that we consume must be safe, and to be safe means we should know how it was made, how the beans were produced from the seeds that were planted, up until it was processed and ready for consumption,” Ramos says.
Limpe and Ramos say government and non-government organizations alike could work together to improve the capability of the farmers of recordkeeping and cataloging as part of an overall traceability system in the cacao industry.
This will enable farmers to track the inputs and processes throughout the cacao production cycles.
As the work toward sustainability and traceability progresses, it is hoped that the farmers will be capable of meeting sustainable agriculture standards, and eventually producing certified cacao supplies that will make the Philippines a reliable source of high-quality cacao.
“Farmers and chocolatiers alike would do well to give customers the best quality in order to keep them as loyal patrons for years to come,” she adds.
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