8 June 2016
Chocolate Week – Connecting Solomon Islands’ farmers with global chocolate makers
At the first ever Solomon Islands Cocoa and Chocolate Week, local producers showed how agricultural produce from Solomon Islands can be internationally competitive.
Chocolate Week was funded by Australia in partnership with the Adventist Relief and Development Agency (ADRA), the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access program (PHAMA), the Rural Development Program, the Commodity Export Marketing Authority, and private sector representatives.
Several overseas chocolate makers visited Solomon Islands as a part of Chocolate Week to support local farmers to improve the quality of their beans and therefore receive a better export price.
A highlight of Chocolate Week was the week-long tasting and chocolate making process. The international chocolate makers selected the best cocoa beans from over 50 farmers from six provinces. Next, the top ten cocoa producers were chosen to have their beans crafted into chocolate bars. The week culminated on Friday with a final celebration and tasting of the newly crafted chocolate bars.
Speaking at the chocolate awards ceremony, Australian High Commissioner Andrew Byrne congratulated participants on the success of Chocolate Week and highlighted the attendance of rural cocoa farmers from across Solomon Islands.
“Having tasted it myself, I can personally attest that the chocolate produced this week is a very high quality,” the High Commissioner said.
“Last year, some Solomon Islands cocoa producers were trained in best practice fermentation and drying techniques. This week, these producers have had the chance to demonstrate their skills, and more growers have had the opportunity to learn from world leading chocolate makers.”
The High Commissioner noted the economic and social benefits that will flow from improving the quality of cocoa beans and boosting export prices, and stressed the importance of engaging more women in the value-add stages of production.
“While half of cocoa producers are women, very few women are involved in the value-add stages, including drying and fermenting,” the High Commissioner said.
“Australia is particularly interested in exploring options for greater involvement of women in all stages of cocoa production and distribution. Its pleasing to see a number of women involved in PHAMA’s solar drier trials,” the High Commissioner said.
Chocolate Week continues into this week with the international chocolate makers set to travel to the provinces to strengthen links with the producers of the top ranked cocoa beans.
Small quantities of cocoa beans will then be exported to the USA and New Zealand to be made into the first Solomon Islands single-origin chocolate bars.
Cocoa is one of Solomon Islands’ biggest agricultural export earners, involving around 25,000 small holder farmers and generating around USD15million each year.
Currently, almost all dried beans are exported with no-value add, therefore Solomon Islands producers usually only receive lower bulk prices.
However, there is large potential for greater revenues from niche chocolate makers in Australia, New Zealand and the USA if producers can improve their bean quality.