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Filipino farmer makes it to the finals of 2019 International Cocoa Awards

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By Antonio Colina 

DAVAO CITY – Jose Saguban, a farmer from Kialaw, Malabog in Paquibato District, Davao City, will compete with 49 other farmers from all over the world for the prestigious 2019 International Cocoa Awards (ICA) during the Salon Du Chocolat in Paris, France on October 30 after his beans were selected as one of the top 50 cocoa beans out of the 223 samples from 55 countries.

(Photo from DAR Region XI)

Jose Saguban (Photo from DAR Region XI)

Saguban’s entry was the only one to make the cut out of the five bean samples from the Philippines. The farmer supplies beans to Auro Chocolate, maker of fine dark chocolates.

Auro Chocolate said it has been helping Saguban and other members of the Paquibato Tree Developers Cooperative with new farm techniques to achieve better quality, mentoring them on the fermentation protocols. The company prepared and sponsored Saguban to join the competition.

“We’d like to thank all of our farming partners for working tirelessly to improve the quality, and not just put the Philippines on the map for cacao beans but for showing the world that we can make gold,” the company said.

Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao (CIDAMI) executive director Valente Turtur said five samples — two from Compostela Valley, two from Calinan District, and one from Paquibato District — were sent to Paris at six kilos per entry last February.

All the bean samples were subjected to physical quality and sensory evaluation from February until June, and flavor sensory evaluation of coca liquor by the Cocoa of Excellence (CoEx) technical committee from July to August.

The entries from the Philippines were all winners of the Philippine National Cacao Industry Council’s National Cacao Award System, which was established to select the best cacao beans that will represent the country in the international competition, Turtur said.

According to CoEx, the ICA, a global competition recognizing the work of cocoa farmers and celebrating the diversity of cocoa flavors, and spearheaded by Bioversity International and Event International, recognizes “quality, flavor, and diversity of cocoas according to their origin.”

The best 50 samples, which will be processed into chocolate, will undergo another stage of flavor sensory evaluation by the CoEx technical committee and a broader panel of professionals. Out of 50 finalists, the CoEx will select 15 to 20 winners.

The winners, including the finalists, will be showcased at the Salon Du Chocolat, which will gather 500 participants from 60 countries, including over 200 renowned chefs and pastry chefs.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s cocoa beans production level reached only 7,983 MT in 2018, 81% of which came from the Davao region.

From 2008 to 2018, the production only grew by 2,834 MT or 55.04% of the Philippines’ cacao production which is insignificant compared to one million MT a year from Ivory Coast, 800,000 MT from Ghana, and 400,000 MT from Indonesia, Turtur said.

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