COCOA farmers now have access to discounted cocoa tools and UV plastic for solar dryers, thanks to a new agreement between Island Enterprises Ltd and the Australian Government initiative Strongim Bisnis.
Island Enterprises CEO Phil Bradford said, “A whole chain of events would occur if farmers had access to subsidised equipment, including increased production and an improved economy.”
Cocoa farmers have two options to increase their incomes from cocoa sales: increase the quantity of cocoa produced or increase quality and attract higher prices. To benefit from prices as high as $30 per kilogram farmers need to follow good agricultural practices regarding plantation management, fermentation and drying.
Farmers also need to identify buyers who are willing to pay higher prices for ‘boutique’ cocoa. To produce boutique-grade cocoa, farmers need to use the right tools and this includes the use of solar dryers. Those using kukum (wood-fired/hot air) dryers produce cocoa beans with a smoke taint that is considered lower quality in the international market. They can only increase their income by increasing production volumes. The smoke-tainted, bulk-market quality only attains prices of around $10 per kilogram.
Many cocoa plots in Solomon Islands have aging trees with declining yields. According to a 2014 analysis on the cocoa value chain in Solomon Islands, the average cocoa yields are low at 250-340 kilograms per hectare compared with the Melanesian average of 400 kilograms per hectare. Main cocoa producing countries have yields of up to 550 kilograms per hectare.
Through Strongim Bisnis’s agreement with Island Enterprises, farmers throughout the country will have access to cocoa tools at discounted prices to help increase cocoa tree yields. Island Enterprises has begun importing UV plastics for farmers interested in investing in solar drying technology. An introductory discount on selected tools and UV plastics will be available for the next few months.
Australian High Commission’s Andrew Schloeffel said that partnerships with the business community are important to broader economic growth. Strong incentives for farmers, such as affordable tools and equipment, aim to encourage sustainability and enhance the commercial model for the cocoa sector.
Island Enterprises are promoting and selling products at their Honiara location, via provincial agents, and through a traveling roadshow starting in Lata, Temotu province this week and in Auki in early 2019. Tools available include: pruning saws, cocoa harvesting knives, wheel barrows, steel loppers, pressure sprayers, shade clothes and planting bags.