BY LYNTON AARON FILIA
SOLOMON Islands cocoa is in high demand in the global market due to its quality, it is reported.
This growth in popularity is said to be contributing significantly to the national and rural economy.
Country’s annual cocoa competition is also contributing to raising the profile of the cocoa industry and successfully promoting it nationally and internationally.
Outcome from the competition also promotes country’s cocoa quality in the global market which brings overseas cocoa buyers to source cocoa from Solomon Islands.
Business Advisor SolChoc Festival coordinator, Mr Brown Onahikeni said the number cocoa competition entries have increased each year since 2016.
He adds there is a tremendous interest from buyers overseas as a result to samples sent to the boutique market.
Onahikeni said in 2016 from the 85 samples sent to the boutique market 1.9 metric tonnes (mt) were exported, 30.9mt in 2017 and 26.8mt in April this year.
He explained Solomon Islands cocoa is unique to international buyers because it comes with deep and exotic flavours.
“Cocoa industry contributes significantly to the rural and national economy especially for women and children in our rural area, and about 22 percent of rural household produce cocoa,” Onahikeni said.
Currently, the country’s main buyers are Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and the United States of America.
Cocoa is an important export earner and source of rural livelihoods with 75 percent of export returns retained by producers.
20,000-25,000 small holder farmers and their households are involved in production.
More than 50 percent of producers and processors are women, who are involved in growing and harvesting, but have a more limited role in the fermenting and drying of cocoa beans.
According to PHAMA, 4000 –5000 tonnes are produced annually, mainly by smallholders.
PHAMA said cocoa is one of Solomon Islands’ biggest agricultural export earners, generating around USD$15 million in exports per year.
PHAMA adds most exports go to the lower quality and priced, bulk processing markets in Asia, although small exports to niche chocolate makers in Australia and New Zealand are increasing.
PHAMA said rising global demand, particularly in Asia, is expected to mean international prices continue to increase over the long term.
As consumer tastes change, there is also growing demand for high quality, single origin cocoa to make dark chocolate bars, PHAMA said.