Premium cocoa exports for Solomon Islands reach new levels
Cocoa is an important export earner in Solomon Islands. The Australian and New Zealand governments, through the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program, have been supporting farmers to further develop the premium solar-dried cocoa export market. In a major milestone achievement, the nation has just recorded its highest export yet of solar-dried cocoa beans to the premium chocolate market.
Patterson Siliota, the Chief Inspecting Officer of the Solomon Islands Commodities Export Market Authority (CEMA), confirmed that total exports of cocoa beans to the premium chocolate market for 2017 so far stands at 24 metric tonnes (worth over SBD600,000) compared with less than 2 metric tonnes exported in previous years. “This is a significant increase since Solomon Islands only began exporting cocoa to the boutique market in 2013. It also shows that international interest in the Solomon Islands cocoa is growing rapidly” said Siliota. He also said that, there has been an increase in contracts between farmers, processors and exporters, and premium chocolate makers.
“The support of PHAMA and other stakeholders to make such improvements to our industry is highly appreciated, including the support CEMA received from PHAMA in the establishment of the cocoa lab which helps ensure that only high-quality cocoa samples and consignments are sent or exported to the buyers,” he said.
This achievement is a result of PHAMA’s continued support and work with the Cocoa Industry Working Group to develop improved buyer contacts and linkages to premium overseas markets. This involved supporting and organising events such as the Chocolate Week Festival and a cocoa trade visit held simultaneously in Honiara in May this year. Both events brought in craft chocolate makers and cocoa buyers to the Solomon Islands from the United States of America, Australia and New Zealand. PHAMA also arranged for cocoa farmers, processors and exporters to travel from provinces to attend the events in Honiara.
PHAMA’s Cocoa Industry Adviser, Hannah Wheaton, said the number of international guests at both events had done a lot to raise the profile of the country’s cocoa industry, and that exporters and growers now need to capitalise on this exposure and interest from overseas buyers.
“Increased international exposure has seen a surge of interest from boutique chocolate makers who are looking to source the country’s best cocoa. These buyers specifically want well fermented, smoke-free cocoa beans. In order to supply this premium market, PHAMA has developed a cost effective assisted solar drier. These driers have been successfully trialled and PHAMA is planning to roll out more solar driers to selected farmers across the country with the assistance of the Solomon Islands Rural Development Programme,” she said.
Cocoa remains an important cash crop with the industry valued at SBD100million. About 20,000 households in the Solomon Islands are involved in the production of cocoa and 75% of export returns are retained by producers – 50% of which are women. The majority of the crop is still exported to lower priced bulk grinding markets in Asia and PHAMA is also working closely with those exporters to the bulk market to help improve their trade terms.
PHAMA supports local cocoa industries as part of its strategy to promote Pacific exports of primary and value-added produce by helping farmers, processors and exporters meet trading regulatory requirements and quality standards. In Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and PNG, PHAMA has helped to link international buyers to cocoa farmers, processors and exporters and assisted local stakeholders to tap into premium chocolate markets which pay higher prices for high-grade cocoa.
Wheaton said PHAMA is now focussed on capitalising on the commercial relationships developed in the last 12 months. She added that the involvement of farmers and their training was important to ensure a successful and ongoing partnership that will continue to secure the future of the cocoa export industry in the Solomon Islands.
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