A workshop was held in Port Vila yesterday for the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and stakeholders in the cocoa industry to review the draft National Cocoa Strategy before it is finalized.

The strategy sets out the direction to develop the cocoa industry of Vanuatu for the next five years. It outlines current challenges facing the cocoa industry and the emerging needs and requirements of the local and global community.

Director of DARD, Antoine Ravo, said the strategy compliments the Vanuatu Agriculture Sector Policy.

The Director General (DG) of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries, Forestry and Biosecurity (MALFFB), Moses Amos, said cocoa remains an important source of livelihood and well-being in Vanuatu.

“More than 1,500 tonnes of cocoa is exported annually, with a value of above Vt454 million.

“Most are exported to bulk grinding markets in Singapore and Malaysia, that deal with lower quality and lower prices.

“With rising global demand, particularly in Asia, it is expected that international prices will continue to increase over the long term.

“There is also growing demand for high quality as consumer tastes change.

“The increasing demand for chocolate consumption and other food products derived from cocoa has kept the demand to continue to increase.

“Cocoa sector contributes to income generation of about 30% of Vanuatu’s population.

“In some communities, it is the only means of income,” he said.

DG Amos said the workshop yesterday aims to address the challenges preventing the cocoa industry from attaining quality, consistent and increase production of fine flavored cocoa.

Cocoa planting in Vanuatu started before 1980 but there was no strategy to manage the sector. Coconut can be grown throughout the country but according to the 2017 agriculture census, it is only concentrated in Sanma, Penama and Malampa provinces.

Director Ravo conveyed that the department plans to expand cocoa planting to develop the cocoa sector in other islands such as Epi and Erromango, that have the potential to grow cocoa.

“Most of the current cocoa plantations are old and unproductive.

“We want to roll out a national cocoa replanting programme next year

“We are also encouraging farmers to do inter-cropping by planting cocoa with other crops or cash crops like kava to help mitigate the effects of climate change,” Ravo said.

He said the Cocoa Strategy will also help open up markets in the region.

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