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Cacao (Fiji) Limited’s growth hindered by lack of supply

  Interestingly, when Cacao (Fiji) Limited ventured into the cocoa business last year, the buzz word was: ‘We are looking for market access for their Fiji cocoa’. In fact the
31 Dec 2016 11:00
Cacao (Fiji) Limited’s growth hindered by lack of supply
Drying cocoa beans at a model farm of Cacao Fiji Limited in Vanua Levu. Photo: Cacao Fiji Limited

 

Interestingly, when Cacao (Fiji) Limited ventured into the cocoa business last year, the buzz word was: ‘We are looking for market access for their Fiji cocoa’.

In fact the local industry demise was due to lack of market.

Through its marketing efforts and dollars, Cacao (Fiji) created a high demand for their cocoa beans.

Hence, there was an increase in demand but now they are posed with the problems of supply.

 

Supply problem

Company director and founder, Arif Khan, explained there was low supply because of low yield per tree.

“Generally speaking, low yielding trees is a common problem in Fiji,” Mr Khan said.

“Further, we do not have the focused expertise required to start the momentum towards a sustainable revival of the Fijian Cocoa industry.

“I am continuously engaged in dialogues with the Ministry of Agriculture top brass to document a roadmap to the industry revival.

“There is a potential here to have a significant social impact via farmer livelihood.  We are marching towards that and have started acquiring beans from farmers.”

For long, the cocoa industry has been abandoned.

Over the past few years, there has been renewed interest given the global shortage predicted. However, in any revival, there needs to be a strategic road map.

Mr Khan said there had been a decent amount of money given towards cocoa rehabilitation but the farmers needed to be incentivised with continuing market access that they were proposing to provide.

“Further, the technical knowledge is lacking,” he said.

“We need a focused approach and there is hope as long as we can have a dialogue with all the stakeholders.

“Curbing the shortage problem holistically will mean training the farmers to increase the yield.

“This has to be a collaborated effort with the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) and NGO’s focused on reviving cocoa farming in Fiji.

“Most importantly, the farmer needs to be incentivised via an ongoing buying program that will motivate the farmers to continue farming. We can provide that platform.”

 

Who are the buyers

The company has shipped dry cacao beans which is the main ingredient to make chocolate in the USA, Canada, France, New Zealand and Australia to name a few.

Mr Khan said there was a growing interest globally.

“It is a lot of marketing effort to get our product recognised in a competitive international market,” he said.

“Countless samples are shipped before a chocolatier will consider purchasing the cocoa beans.

“Given that I resided previously in California, the US was a natural first market through countless hours of networking and visiting several tradeshows.

“The good word gets around and our product garnered significant interest amongst various chocolate companies internationally.”

 

Export situation

The company’s exports are based on supply of beans.

Mr Khan said they do several shipments in the year but not quite where they want to.

“It is not a highly profitable business at the moment as you need significant volume,” he said.

“However, we have set the wheels in motion and we now hope that MPI and other donors will work closely with us and the farmers.

“At various geographic regions such as Rakiraki and Seaqaqa, we are able to provide an alternative farming to sugarcane farmers and we are appealing for Europe Union (EU) to consider our model.

“To date there has been no assistance from EU but we are hopeful.”

 

Current situation

The company is working on a model farm in Dreketi that supplies cacao but faced with low yields.

“We are working with villagers in the vicinity and have begun a programme of buying from all farmers who follow our instructions,” he said.

“We are embarking on a plan to expand that in Viti Levu in early 2017.

“We would like to advise the existing farmers that their local market access will be a trouble of the past.

“The company will provide a programme for ongoing buying.

“We like to buy from a cluster of farmers and new farmers need to preferably be within those geographic regions.”

Also, they may contact their local MPI office or get in touch CFL directly.

 

Future outlook

Mr Khan said they were socially impacting the farmers livelihood, farmers had continuing market access that increased their disposable income and hence, consumer spending that impacted the local economy.

“We are exporting that brings foreign exchange but importantly we are laying the ground work for a viable alternative industry that has a significant impact for the economies of the Solomons, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, so why not Fiji,” he said.

“It is our hope that in 2017, we can engage in a dialogue and collaborate with the stakeholders to finalise a roadmap towards a sustainable revival of the cocoa industry.”

Edited By:  Rachna Lal

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