Cocoa testing authorities from across the Pacific region have been in Honiara this month to share expertise on cocoa quality testing and improve their capacity.
This is part of a wider drive to improve the quality and reputation of Pacific cocoa, so that it can be sold into higher priced international markets.
The Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA) Program brought together experts from PNG, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Samoa to foster technical discussions and exchanges on cocoa quality testing and build the capacity of technical staff from relevant research organisations.
Two technical staff of the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS), Mr Siope Pele and Mr Fiaigoa Malolo, recently returned from this 2-week regional training.
The training was held in Honiara, at the Commodities Export Marketing Authority (CEMA) and included participants from Vanuatu’s Food Technology and Development Centre’s Analytical Unit Vanuatu (FTDC-AU), and the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa (SROS). The training was conducted by technicians from PNG’s Cocoa and Coffee Institute Ltd (CCIL) which has extensive experience in cocoa quality testing. The focus was on cocoa quality lab testing methods required for the global market, including undertaking analytical procedures and using new lab equipment.
“This training builds agencies’ knowledge of standard laboratory practices and how each test relates to the quality of the cocoa,” said Kenny Francis from CCIL.
The CEMA facility (jointly funded by PHAMA and the Solomon Islands Government) opened in March 2015. It provides the Solomon Islands industry with access to quality testing based on international standards. Prior to this no fully capable testing facility was available in the Solomon Islands. Now the facility is functioning, CEMA is able to fulfil its role as a National Quality Assurance Agency to assure overseas buyers of the quality of the 4,000-5000 tonnes of cocoa being exported from the country every year.
Vanuatu has a small but developing cocoa export industry (approximately 1,500 tonnes per year) with an increasing focus on supply for niche chocolate markets and value added chocolate products for sale via the tourist trade. Like the Solomon Islands, quality remains an issue and Vanuatu is working towards improving quality testing capacity to meet international standards.
In Samoa highly desirable varieties of cocoa are grown and there is increasing interest by the government and the private sector to re-invigorate its production and export. Similar to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands improving technical capacity in quality testing of cocoa will be an advantage to the industry and support improvements along the cocoa value chain.
“This exchange is a great example of south-south co-operation, using expertise from within the region”, explained PHAMA Team Leader, Mr Guy Redding. “It complements the other work PHAMA is supporting to improve cocoa quality, by building the capacity of testing agencies to conduct quality tests to international standards.”
Mr Francis believes that the participating agencies will now be able to conduct all cocoa quality lab tests, provided they have the appropriate equipment.
SROS officer, Siope Pele, said, “This training has taught us ‘new analysis’ cocoa testing that will validate and add to the Standard Operating Procedures for our Technical Service Division. We are very happy to be able to provide this service for cocoa farmers to test the quality of their cocoa before export.”
Established in 2011, PHAMA is an aid-for-trade Programme implemented by AECOM and funded by the Australian and New Zealand Governments through to June 2017. It aims to promote Pacific exports of primary and value added produce by helping exporters to meet trading partners’ regulatory requirements and quality standards. PHAMA operates in six countries: Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu.