Valente Turtur, CIDAMI executive director, said in an interview on Tuesday that that five entries – two from Compostela Valley province, two from Calinan District and one from Paquibato District in Davao City – had been sent to Paris at six kilos per entry last February.
He said the entries were the winners of the Philippine National Cacao Industry Council’s National Cacao Award System, established to select the best cacao beans that will represent the country in the international competition.
Turtur said entries from the Philippines would be pit against nearly 180 entries from 60 countries during the biennial competition, regarded as the most prestigious of its kind in the world. An entry from the cacao farm of the Puentespina family in Malagos District was adjudged as among the top 50 cacao beans in 2017, he said.
“We are confident this time because we already learned something from our experience. We know the process already, especially the post-harvest process,” Turtur said.
Based on the website of Cocoa of Excellence Program (CoEx), all entries will undergo a physical quality and sensory evaluation from February to July and flavor sensory evaluation of coca liquor by the CoEx Technical Committee from July to August.
The announcement of the top 50 entries will be made between July and August, Turtur said. From the top 50, the 22-member jury will select 14 winners.
According to CoEx, the ICA, a global competition recognizing the work of cocoa farmers and celebrating the diversity of cocoa flavors, and spearheaded by Biodiversity International and Event International, to recognize “quality, flavor and diversity of cocoas according to their origin."
The best 50 samples will be showcased at the Salon Du Chocolat, which will gather 500 participants from 60 countries, including over 200 renowned chefs and pastry chefs.
What makes International Cocoa Award special, Turtur said, is that it recognizes the farmers. “The purpose of which is to motivate them to do the right thing,” he said.
Turtur added the judging process is very meticulous as it requires farmers to document from the time the cacao trees bloom, bear fruits, date of harvest, fermentation period, and fertilizers used in farms.
He said Europe’s top chocolate makers will base their decision where to buy beans on the results of the international competition.
Edwin Banquerigo, assistant regional director of the Department of Trade and Industry who is also part of the secretariat of the Philippine National Cacao Industry Council, said Davao, the largest cacao producer in the Philippines, is not just the source of the raw materials and finished products but also of the technology and the knowledge to capacitate the farmers in bringing “the country’s cacao and chocolate to a higher level.”
“Davao has always been the benchmark. The expansion, in other regions, is really significant, and the source of planting materials used to come from Davao and the transfer of technology is coming from Davao, the training, and most of them took the cacao master training here in Davao,” he said.
As of 2017, the country has 64,693 hectares planted to cacao trees and about 40% of which are productive. Davao Region accounted for nearly half or about 29,000 hectares of the total land area planted to cacao, according to Banquerigo.
He said the country targets to plant 50 million cacao trees and increase the productivity to two kilos per tree to reach a production target of 100,000 metric tons by 2022.
But cacao farmers and industry players have a lot of work to do as the current cacao production of the Philippines was estimated at 12,000 metric tons annually, way below the demand of 40,000 metric tons.