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Bright future in Fiji

Monika Singh
Friday, February 10, 2017

THE future of cocoa in Fiji is bright and the Ministry of Agriculture has pledged its support to rehabilitate the industry.

Ministry of Agriculture deputy secretary for agriculture development, Uraia Waibuta said cocoa would always remain one of the priority crops for the ministry.

"We are so thankful to the European Union for its support towards this project. This project focuses on the gaps that exist in developing the value chain for cocoa," he said.

Mr Waibuta said there was a huge export potential for Fiji's cocoa and the ministry would continue to focus on production in terms of revitalising the cocoa industry in Fiji to meet the demand for the export market.

Cocoa was a huge industry in Fiji in the 70s and Mr Waibuta said the ministry was thankful that it was being rehabilitated.

Mr Waibuta said the ministry was ready to support in whatever way possible to rehabilitate the cocoa industry.

The Ministry of Agriculture has already undertaken some rehabilitation programs to ensure the cocoa industry gets back to where it was in the 70s and better.

"Cocoa replanting is also happening, we have identified certain core varieties which we are working on in our research station and distributing to farmers in order to meet the demand, specifically for chocolate."

He said under the cocoa redevelopment program they had provisions for rehabilitation, new planting and procurement of some basic tools such as chainsaw and also the construction of few farm roads.

He said the farm gate price for cocoa was $5 and even if it went down to $1 a kilo, farmers would still make a lot of money.

However Adi Chocolate Fiji director Tomohito Zukoshi said they had plans to add some premium to the farm gate price because they were going to apply for the UTZ Certification and so the price that farmers would get for their cocoa was expected to increase further.

Mr Waibuta said this was an opportune time for farmers to go back — those who still had their cocoa stands to start pruning because in a year's time it will start flowering and fruiting and definitely this particular price will continue to be there for farmers.

However, he said the biggest challenge for them was the distance of the cocoa plantations from the villages.

He said villagers had to spend a week or two on their plantations and then return to their villages and this was one of the reasons for the farms were neglected.

"Most of the cocoa plantations are communally owned that is why we need the mataqali to help in the rehabilitation process.

"The roads need to be constructed too and the ministry is working towards addressing that challenge."

He said there was a time when Fiji used to produce about 7000 tonnes of cocoa but the current production was not even 100 tonnes.

"About 15 years ago I took a delegation to Sweden and we had taken some samples of chocolate made from cocoa from here and we were told by their most revered chocolate taster that chocolate from Fiji was the number one.

"He had, however, pointed out some shortcomings such as the smell of the chocolate which is why we have set up fermenters too," he said.

Mr Waibuta said the ministry would push for the development of the industry and called for support from farmers.

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