Cocoa production in the Pacific has a long history and was once a thriving industry, with Pacific cocoa sought for its fine flavours and unique qualities. However, global competition, natural disasters, cocoa diseases and under-investment have led to progressive long-term decline of the industry.
Today, cocoa remains an important cash crop in PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu and a significant source of livelihood income for thousands of families. Global demand for chocolate is expected to grow steadily over the medium to long term, particularly in Asia. Consumer tastes are also becoming more refined, with growing demand for niche and single origin chocolate. This offers an exciting opportunity for Pacific cocoa producers as premium and niche markets provide higher prices for fine flavoured, good quality cocoa. This price premium provides an incentive for Pacific producers to invest in quality and to compete on the basis of flavour, organic or Fair Trade certification and country of origin rather than simply price and volume. Industry rehabilitation will be further supported by developing pathways for commercialisation of cocoa from smallholder farming systems and linking them to higher value global markets.
The PHAMA Program is supporting Pacific cocoa industries in Samoa, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and potentially Papua New Guinea. Cocoa quality improvement is a key focus for the Program with a view to accessing price premiums from high end buyers, and assisting Pacific farmers and exporters to link with those buyers. The Program has focused its efforts on addressing smoke contamination of cocoa beans from wood fired driers, which are used widely across the region. A combined activity across Vanuatu, Samoa and the Solomon Islands has been implemented to investigate current drying practices and to trial a solar drier design. Initial results are promising showing high quality beans can be produced without smoke taint.
To assist industry to better understand potential market opportunities and identify potential buyers for higher quality bean, a survey has been commissioned to examine the Australian, European, New Zealand and United States markets for boutique cocoa. Initial results from this survey show that significant price premiums are available for high quality cocoa, and that there is interest in buying single origin cocoa from Pacific countries.
Further information on how PHAMA is working to address quality issues and secure niche markets for quality cocoa beans is outlined in the individual country cocoa fact sheets that follow.