Central Province marked a milestone on the 27th of September 2023 as the Cocoa Board (CB) of PNG officially opened its Southern Regional Office in Port Moresby.
The board also signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Central Provincial Government in a significant ceremony, which will now form a pathway for Central Cocoa
Central Governor Rufina Peter, newly appointed CBPNG CEO Jesse Anjen, and Brown Konabe, Acting Secretary for Department of Agriculture and Livestock, opened the CB Southern Regional Office at the third floor of the Monian Tower in Boroko’s central business district.
The office consists of a reception area where clients like cocoa farmers can wait to be served, a work space for two officers, an office for the manager, and a small board room where meetings and consultations can take place.
Upon unveiling and cutting the ribbon of the new Office, Governor Peter on behalf of the People of Central thanked the Cocoa Board for the office.
The governor also highlighted that cocoa has big economic potential for the Central Province, but it has been untapped and thus collaborative efforts is needed.
“I am sure, with collaborative efforts with the Cocoa Board, we want to add to the statistics of cocoa production in the province,” said Ms. Peter.
The second part of the program at the Lamana Hotel saw the MoU signing between CBPNG and the Central Provincial Government (CPG).
Cocoa Board CEO Anjen emphasized that actions speak louder than words, and stressed that Central is the host province for the board.
“We have a lot of potential here (in Central). If we talk for nothing and open the office, there’s no meaning, but thanks to the Central Provincial Government, this is the first ever provincial agreement in the Southern Region, and I am pleased this is what has happened,” he said.
“What we say and what we preach must happen. We are here to assist small holders in the Central Province, particularly the Southern Region but we must do the work for it to become a reality,” said Mr. Anjen.
As part of the MoU, the Central Provincial Government allocated K1 million to assist the CBPNG in pushing the cocoa industry in the province, from the production stage to marketing, exporting and downstream processing.
This will ensure that small cocoa plot holders and farmers in the rural areas and wards are supported by extension officers, identifying markets at their level, Ms. Peter said.
For the Governor, it’s exciting times ahead for cocoa in Central, and for the cocoa industry in PNG.
“I congratulate the management of the Cocoa Board for this decision to finally consider Central Province as a potential cocoa producing province,” she said.
"Central Province has an untapped potential in cocoa production, which has not been realized due to the lack of coordination from the industry,” said Governor Peter.
She also highlighted that in August, staff from the CPG and CP Department of Agriculture and Livestock held a one-week Agriculture Stakeholder Workshop in Kwikila.
The workshop meant to bring all agriculture commodity boards and agencies together for a discussion to establish the current state of operation of each organization in the province and to plan a way for development of each sector.
The consultation workshop had the following organizations in attendance:
- Cocoa Board
- Coffee Industry Corporation
- Fresh Produce Development Agency
- Kokonas Indastri korporesin
- Rubber industry experts
- Livestock development Corporation
- National Agriculture Research Institute
The aim of the workshop was to:
- Establish the constraints affecting the various commodity sectors and industry growth in the province;
- Evaluate and establish strategies to mitigate these limitations for the growth of the various commodities in the province; and
- The parties involved, the commodity bodies, and the Central Provincial Government to mobilise and combine resources to develop the specific commodity sector in Central province.
The cocoa industry was once thriving in Central Province in the days when the Department of Agriculture, Stock and Fisheries (DASF) was responsible for both development and marketing of all agricultural commodities.
When policy changes took place and the responsibility of marketing was transferred to the private sector (middlemen and exporters), the agriculture commodity marketing fell apart in most provinces, especially remote areas in the country, and Central Province was no exception.
The same story goes for Arabica coffee in Goilala and inland Rigo, Koiari and Abau. There are old stands of cocoa from those days and recent planting across the Central province.
Abau District was the largest cocoa producer in the days of DASF, but it all fell apart.
Data from three other districts minus Abau stands as: Kairuku – 6, 500 trees; Hiri koiari – 17,345 trees; Rigo – 75,700 trees.
The current “guesstimate” would put the cocoa tree numbers at around 200,000, Central Province said.
“Establishment of cocoa fermenters and driers in the current production locations is a first priority to give confidence to the farmers to get into cocoa production. Establishing a market outlet apart from Paradise Foods would be a second priority,” the governor said.