Fiji’s first community managed cocoa processing unit was launched in Lutu Village, Naitasiri, today.
The processing unit, consisting of a fermenter and a cocoa dryer, was provided by the European Union (EU) funded Increasing Agricultural Commodities Trade (IACT) project, implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC).
The IACT project has been supporting the recovery of the Fijian agricultural sector following the destruction caused by tropical cyclone Winston. To rehabilitate and invigorate the Fijian cocoa industry, the project installed three cocoa processing units throughout Fiji; the unit in Lutu Village being the first to start operations today.
The project worked closely with the Ministry of Agriculture to locate key cocoa growing areas and to identify the best locations for the new processing units. The processing unit in Lutu Village will be managed and operated by the Wainaka Cocoa Growers Association, which represents the cocoa farmers from Lutu Village and the surrounding area.
Ministry of Agriculture Deputy Secretary for Agriculture Development, Uraia Waibuta said: “Cocoa will always remain one of the priority crops for the Ministry of Agriculture. We are so thankful to the EU for its support towards this project. This project focuses on the gaps that exist in developing the whole value chain for cocoa. There is a huge export potential for Fiji’s cocoa and the Ministry will continue to focus on production in terms of revitalizing the cocoa industry in Fiji to meet the demand for the export market.”
The EU Ambassador to Fiji and the Pacific, H.E. Andrew Jacobs said: “There is an increasing demand worldwide, and particularly in Europe, for speciality chocolates distinguished by their pure ingredients and unique tastes. I am convinced that Fiji cocoa, grown and harvested naturally in the pristine environment of the South Pacific, has all the attributes to entice chocolate lovers around the world. This is a good example for rehabilitation in the aftermath of TC Winston which also provides new opportunities."
Aside from the cocoa processing units, the project assisted approximately 100 farmers clear their farms from debris left by TC Winston and provided them with training on best pruning practices. Plans to construct a cocoa nursery housing 50,000 plants are well underway and selected farmers are currently undergoing UTZ training to certify them as fully sustainable organic growers.
“TC Winston caused devastating loss to the cocoa sector and simultaneously it presented an opportunity to re-build and improve existing structures. With the IACT-TC Winston Recovery Action, our aim is to create a sustainable and resilient cocoa sector that can expand into the market and also recover efficiently from future disaster,” SPC Land Resources Director, Jan Helsen said.