The meeting that will not bore you to death | Inquirer Business
Commentary

The meeting that will not bore you to death

To make a meeting most productive, it is useful to know how it will end even before it starts. This valuable suggestion many years ago came from Tomas Alcantara, my then fellow trade and industry secretary. Since we were both new in government coming from the private sector, I told him, “Since I’ve joined government, I feel like a ‘DOM’—not for ‘dirty old man,’ but for ‘died of meetings.’” There were too many, and often, not very productive meetings.

An example of the exact opposite of unproductive meetings is the National Cacao Congress, which started yesterday (and will run until today) at the Davao SMX Convention Center with the theme, “Cacao is gold.”

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Too often, participants leave a seminar feeling they do not know what valuable things they actually got. On the other hand, the Cacao Congress from the very start already identified four things the participants should have by the end of the convention.

First is knowing what to do differently than current cacao production practices. Since there are so many contrasting methods taught by different people, participants do not know which to follow.

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Prior to the convention, the organizers believed there was a need to identify only the methods that were science-based. These were summarized in a publication written by 14 respected practitioners and were made available to participants in a carefully crafted guide called “Cacao Bible.” In addition, the practitioners themselves are Congress speakers, thus making the meeting an educational and hands-on training experience.

The second end-result is for participants to know where to plant cacao. We often hear that cacao should be planted wherever it can grow. This can actually lead to losses.

During the Congress, participants will learn soil analysis for cacao to properly grow. Soil characteristics and areas where cacao can grow will be identified. A hazard map will also be presented to determine if cacao will survive in severe environmental changes.

The third end-result is that participants will know and understand what the local and global markets are like.

Few growers know that at least two kilos per cacao plant is needed to challenge Ivory Coast, a major cacao powerhouse that has gone back to growing cacao after diverting temporarily to palm oil. To compete, the Philippines must now introduce product innovations and penetrate emerging markets in the Asia-Pacific.

Fourthly, participants will know where to get help after the Congress. In business, this is called “after sales service,” which is often even more important than the product itself.

Fortunately, participants will be able to access the free “Usapan Cacao at Chokolate” held every first Wednesday of the month. These will be led by the same 14 practitioners featured in the Congress. Videos of the discussions will be uploaded to the Philippine Cacao Industry Association (PCIA) YouTube account for everyone to access.

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Michael Arron, executive director of the International Cacao Organization, will be speaking at the conference together with other global experts. Two days before the conference, there were already a record-breaking 1,104 preregistered participants.

Among the key players leading this event are the PCIA, the departments of Agriculture, Trade and Industry, Science and Technology, and the very important Interior and Local Government (which supports governors and mayors who are now primarily responsible for our agriculture development through the Local Government Code).

The Cacao Congress is a model for other meetings to follow: even before the meeting starts, the meeting’s end is already known and planned for. This way, instead of death from boredom, there will be life, growth and concrete results.

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is [email protected]

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