By: Paul Oeka November 03, 2022

Photo credit: Paga Hill Estate

Large scale Cocoa farming is not something that is familiar in the highlands region of Papua New Guinea but the Chimbu Province in the highlands region is breaking barriers by engaging in large scale Cocoa farming for commercial purposes.

For many this may sound peculiar because we have never heard of Cocoa being farmed in large scale for commercial purpose in Chimbu or any other parts of the highlands region for that matter. This is because cocoa and other crops that are grown in the coastal region do not adapt and grow well and yield in the highlands which is due to the cold weather and climate.

But that has changed, thanks to climate change where there are more than a million cocoa trees growing in the Chimbu Province and cocoa farmers in the province are aiming to grow a million more cocoa trees by mid 2023.

In Karamui alone there are more than 200,000 mature cocoa trees that are growing, making good money for the farmers in the area. There is a steadily increasing 30 hectare cocoa plantation known as Sorita cocoa plantation located in Karamui, Salt Nomane District in the Chimbu Province. From these 30 hectares they have already harvested and sold cocoa beans to the international market.

Sorita Cocoa farm is the largest cocoa plantation in the highlands region and is owned by Norman Mondo, who has more than 20 hectares of cocoa plantation in Karamui and has a Cocoa Exporting licence.

Cocoa board Chief Executive Officer Boto Gaupu presented a Cocoa export licence to Karamui cocoa farmer Norman Mondo a couple of years ago.

Mr Mondo is slowly expanding his cocoa plantation to meet the world demand. Mostly he employs the local villagers in the Karamui area to work in his plantation.

Karamui cocoa came second in PNG Cocoa of Excellency show in Lae, Morobe Province in 2019 and also came in at 50th place amongst 375 countries who competed for the world Cocoa Excellency show in France last year.

World Cocoa analysts have labelled the Cocoa beans from the Chimbu province to be some of the biggest Cocoa beans internationally as the cocoa beans that have been produced in the province are sampled to be quite huge.

While the cocoa farm in Karamui is expanding every day, the people of the neighbouring Gumine District have also planted more than 200,000 cocoa trees and are continuing to plant this year to reach the one million mark.

The Gumine Cocoa farmers were supported by their former local MP Nick Kuman, who had urged his people to seriously look at cocoa as an alternate cash crop apart from coffee. He stressed that cocoa has the potential to produce high yield and good returns in income to the farmers.

The former MP had given out K2 million in Small to Medium Enterprise (SME) funds for the Gumine district and wants farmers in this area to utilise these funds to tap into the cultivating and farming of Cocoa.

In relation, Field service quality assurance manager of the Cocoa Board of PNG Mr Nathan Wartovo said cocoa normally grows in the coastal areas but today it is growing well in the highlands region because of climate change.

"Karamui in Chimbu province has been the leader in the highlands region in cocoa farming but now we also have farmers in Eastern Highlands, Jiwaka and Western Highlands farming cocoa". Wartovo said.

He said farmers in these areas were brought in by the Cocoa Board to display their cocoa at the Highlands Cocoa show hosted earlier this year in Kundiawa, Chimbu Province.

It is already becoming a reality that Chimbu Province has become the first province in the highlands region to farm and produce high quality cocoa and is competitive in the country and on the international market against other cocoa beans.

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