Summit participants raise their hands to reaffirm their commitment to support the development of the cacao industry.

The Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries (PCAF) translated cacao stakeholders’ issues and concerns into sound policy recommendations during its first-ever National Cacao Summit on September 26 to 27, 2016 at the Department of Agriculture (DA) New Building in Quezon City.

These recommendations will be endorsed to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol as well as to concerned government agencies, for their consideration and appropriate actions.

During the two-day summit, almost 200 cacao stakeholders appealed to DA, its bureaus and attached agencies concerned with the industry including PCAF, to boost the support and protection of cacao farmers in terms of quality cacao seedlings, credit support and appropriate trainings.

“The cacao industry needs to empower small farmers by addressing the recurring issues and concerns plaguing the Philippine cacao industry,” said Josephine Ramos, chairperson of PCAF-National Sectoral Committee—Committee on Commercial Crops-Cacao Industry Development Sub-Committee (NSC-ComCrops-CIDSC).

Ramos also assured the cacao stakeholders that ComCrops will support the industry by endorsing resolutions such as the involvement of the members of NSC-ComCrops in the discussions regarding the implementation of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) National Greening Program (NGP).

The NGP aims to plant 1.5 billion trees and cover 1.5 million hectares within six years from 2011 to 2016 to conserve and protect the environment, and contribute to poverty reduction, production enhancement, and climate change mitigation.

Despite the success of the NGP, reports showed that an estimated 7.1 million hectares of unproductive, denuded and degraded forestlands still remain. These contribute to environmental risks such as soil erosion, landslide and flooding.

The cacao stakeholders were informed that by the virtue of Executive Order 193, Series of 2015, NGP was extended until 2028 to accelerate rehabilitation and reforestation, and involve the participation and investment of the private sector to achieve carbon neutrality.

The NGP also utilizes timber crops, fruit trees, and plantation crops such as coffee, cacao, rubber and other crops in its forest rehabilitation activities.

With the aid of the resolution, the NSC-ComCrops aims to assist DENR in completing the need for technical and marketing support during the implementation of the NGP. Reports said that recipients of the planting materials still lack technical knowledge in managing plantations, post harvest processing and marketing, particularly cacao beans.

Aside from this, among the resolutions that came up   during the plenary sessions was the request to the DA-Bureau of Plant Industry-High Value Crops Development Program (BPI-HVCDP) to realign the proposed budget for cacao seedling procurement to the provision of support systems to help in capacitating local farmers to produce their own quality cacao seedlings.

This is in line with the industry’s target that by year 2022, the Philippines will be producing 100 thousand metric tons of quality cacao beans and develop at least 100 hectares with around 50 million trees producing 2 kilograms per tree per year. With this direction, experts said that the Philippine cacao exports will increase up to USD250 million per year and can generate at least 150 thousand jobs.

On the other hand, the summit participants also expressed their concern on the rampant smuggling of plants which continues either through remote points of entry or technical smuggling by misdeclaration of shipments.

This is despite the presence of BPI’s penalty clause in Section 23 of Presidential Decree 1433 stating that the BPI-Plant Quarantine Service which thoroughly inspects and verifies exported and imported agricultural commodities was strengthened by adequate updated laws, regulations, resources and facilities to monitor and control the movement of plant and pest diseases.

This caused the participants to appeal to BPI to impose higher penalties or administrative sanctions on violators of plant quarantine rules to prevent the start and outbreak of pests and diseases because smuggled plants are not properly and thoroughly inspected as they go through illegal channels.

Other resolutions include the development of the Philippine National Standard for the establishment of cacao fermentation facilities, development of guidelines for the accreditation of plant propagators, requiring farmer beneficiaries under HVCDP to undergo appropriate training prior to the production and delivery of cacao planting materials, and requiring that only accredited nurseries should be used as basis for the identification of target areas and quantities of plant materials to be procured.

The summit also crafted recommendations to DA-HVCDP to issue a memorandum requiring the regional bids and awards committees to involve the Agricultural and Fisheries Councils in coming up with technical criteria in the procurement of planting materials, machinery and equipment for farmer beneficiaries.

The participants also implored to allocate additional funds for research studies related to cacao, and aggressively disseminate information about the importance and benefits of growing cacao through national and local agricultural radio programs as main communication tools.