Papua New Guinea cocoa among the world’s best
A group of international cocoa buyers from the United States of America and Europe currently visiting Papua New Guinea have expressed a strong interest in sourcing locally produced cocoa for their chocolate and bean-to-bar businesses.
The delegation arrived in the country early this month and has visited several cocoa farms, plantations, fermenteries and traders/exporters in the Bougainville, Madang and Morobe provinces.
Organised by the Australian and New Zealand Government-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program, the trade visit is part of PHAMA’s wider program to promote PNG cocoa in new markets.
PHAMA undertook a market study in May 2016 to better understand future opportunities for high-quality cocoa in PNG and to outline clear export pathways for suppliers. Amongst other recommendations, the study recommended a trade visit to link prospective international buyers to farmers, traders and exporters.
Buyers’ Observations and Remarks
Chocolate Wave owner Martyn O’Dare who has over 35 years of experience in the UK chocolate industry said the visit was important to find out the story behind PNG cocoa.
“I’ve seen tremendous enthusiasm from people growing cocoa, the farmers, the fermenters and the exporters – everybody’s got the will to make this work so that’s the most important thing. What we’ll do after this trip is a deep assessment on the samples so we can select the best taste,” he said.
“It’s (cocoa) grown in paradise, has a unique taste, really powerful fruity notes, tobacco notes and lots of other flavours which, as chocolatiers, we can tease out but we can’t tease out unless the farmer has grown, harvested, fermented and dried (the cocoa) correctly,” he added.
Brad Kintzer, head chocolate maker of TCHO in San Francisco, USA has previously purchased cocoa from the Pacific.
“There’s a lot of different ways I could use PNG cocoa so I’d love to start looking at a way to buy and test it,” he said.
He said what sets PNG apart from other cocoa-producing countries is the cocoa itself.
“If the cocoa is processed properly, it is some of the best cocoa in the world. Not all countries can say that. PNG really has a unique flavour profile that could be very much sought after in the developing specialty chocolate market so there’s a lot of potential for PNG to focus on quality and branding itself as one of the top flavour countries in the world.”
Mathieu Bours, a cocoa buyer for Cercle du Cacao in Belgium, said while the aromatic profile of PNG cocoa was stunning, some fermentries and drying systems lacked proper methods to prevent cocoa from being tainted by smoke during the drying process.
“There is a huge potential for PNG bean but given that every single process post harvest can harm the aromatics we have to make sure that every step is correct so that the potential is actually developed and not ruined. Some of them lack evacuation for the smoke so we’ve got to help the fermenteries develop a new way of doing it or at least better off the evacuation of smoke. ”
French chocolatier Raoul Boulanger and Mr Bours have not previously sourced cocoa from Pacific origins but are keen to explore possibilities with cocoa farmers and exporters from PNG and the Solomon Islands.
“As part of the study conducted in May, we received some samples that we really liked but the problem is the smoke taint. We are here to see if we can get some well processed cocoa and see how we can develop better processing procedures.”
The problem with smoke taint in cocoa beans is well documented across the Pacific. In Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa, PHAMA has been trialling low cost “solar driers” to address this problem.
Traders and Exporters Take on the Trade Visit
Finan Romaso, Field Service Manager for Agmark NGIP , one of PNG’s major exporters, said they would like to see how they could help farmers access the specialty market.
“It’s a new market and we’re trying to access these markets for the farmers. Unfortunately, what we’re finding is because PNG cocoa is high premium cocoa, it fetches a high price but a lot of buyers are hesitant to give a little extra (as premium) for the farmers.”
Mr Romaso explained the premiums were an incentive for farmers who used it for community development, including the construction of classrooms and housing quarters for teachers as a means of securing better education for their children.
Kulili Estates’ co-owner Brett Middleton said while they did not export directly themselves, they were interested in maximising returns.
“Having small buyers here opens up a door or window that may lead to more profitable cocoa exports in the future,” he said.
He said Kulili Estates had previously exported directly to international buyers but the challenges of logistic arrangements and costs of doing business from Karkar Island had deterred their efforts. With the current high price of cocoa, Mr Middleton said the idea of exporting was worth revisiting.
“The future is in high end quality cocoa and we’d like to get some benefit from producing high quality cocoa so I’m hoping it works out,” he said.
The delegation is currently in the Solomon Islands for further meetings with cocoa farmers, traders and exporters.
PNG Country Manager
Phone: +675 313 7940