Friday, December 30, 2011

Davao Could Be A Key Global Supplier of Cocoa

The Philpress News & Features reported earlier this year that global cocoa buyers have high hopes for the Davao area's cacao producing potential. According to the article:
"Among Asian countries, the Philippines has the smallest production of cacao beans at around 5,000 metric tons of cacao beans last year. Its highest production was in 1980 with 20,000 tons and 1990 with 35,000 tons, declining over the years as farmers abandoned cacao farming for other more profitable crops. "
Asia has a large cocoa processing industry but hardly enough fermented cacao beans to process. Indonesia has the biggest cocoa production at 600,000 tons last year. Papua New Guinea had 50,000 tons and Malaysia had 17,000 tons. India produced 7,000 tons last year and the Philippines produced only 5,000 tons. Vietnam only produced 1,000 tons last year.

Japan, China, Malaysia, and Indonesia all have large cocoa processing centers importing 220,000 metric tons of raw cacao fermented beans last year from the Ivory Coast in West Africa.

Meeting the Philippine goal of producing 100,000 tons of cacao by 2020 will elevate the country, especially its high cacao-producing port city of Davao, to becoming a key global supplier.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

High Hopes from Malaysian Trader

The Philpress News & Features earlier this year reported about a Malaysian trader who said that his company is poised to buy all of the cacao produced from the Philippine region over the next 10 years. He says that Davao is a perfect location for producing cocoa because of the great soil, the good rain fall, and the area is not often hit by extreme weather.

Quite simply, the demand for cacao is greater than supply sources. Even with the Philippines meeting its goal for producing 100,000 metric tons by 2020, there would still be larger demand both locally and internationally for cocoa.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The 2020 Challenge

Earlier this year, the Philpress News & Features announced a goal for the Philippines to plant 58 million cacao trees by the year 2020. It will require 130,000 filipino farmers planting 7 million cacao trees every year. This will produce 100,000 metric tons of cocoa by 2020.

This was a challenge set by ACDI/VOCA who has been actively assisting the filipino cacao farming industry.

With a modest price of $2500 per metric ton, this is a potential of $250 million in export earnings for the Philippines cocoa industry. The global market price is about $3400 per metric ton.

Since cacao is a great crop that can be planted along side existing ones, farmers who already planting coconut, banana, and mango trees can easily plant cacao and be part of the growing opportunity.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flooding and Farming in the Philippines

What do farmers do in a country that has frequent flooding?

In this past week's flooding in the southern island of Mindanao, over 1,000 people have been reported dead with hundreds more missing, reports It appears that the most impacted areas are Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City. Tropical Storm Washi swept through last Friday, December 16, 2011 and they have been trying to recover since then. About 45,000 people have been displaced.

Davao City, where I potentially will do my global internship with ACDI/VOCA if approved, is on the opposite side of Cagayan de Oro on Mindanao. I have not yet seen any reports of damage to that part of the island.

This YouTube video is from AlJazeeraEnglish: reports that whole homes have been swept away. They say that the Philippines experiences approximately 20 heavy storms annually but most of them hit the northern island of Luzon. They say that Mindanao is rarely touched by cyclones. They also report that millions of tons of rice, pineapples, and bananas have been destroyed. These crops are key to the agricultural economy of Mindanao.

Earlier this year in January 2011, reported that torrential rains and flooding impacted two-thirds of the country in the northern island of Luzon and the central island region of Visayas resulting in 42 deaths and damage to agriculture, housing, and infrastructure amounting to approximately 900 million pesos (about $23 million US) affecting 1.3 million people in 144 towns. reports:
"Nationwide farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and and Samahan han Gudti nga Parag-uma ha Sinirangan Bisayas (SAGUPA-SB) has blamed massive mining operations for some of the destructive effects of flashflooding and mudslides by heavy rains.

“This is very enraging as the Aquino government has no program to protect the people from environmental destruction, worse, it is promoting it through its programs such as the PPP and mining operations. Aquino did not promise junking the Mining Act of 1995 and obviously continuing its implementation,” said Danilo Ramos, KMP Secretary-General in a media release."
So in thinking about the livelihoods of farmers in the Philippines, I can definitely see the devastating impact heavy storms and flooding can have, particularly on the agricultural economy. As I spend the month of February in the Philippines both in Luzon and in Mindanao, I will be intentional about asking farmers how they deal with the threat of losing their crops and their homes.

As I explore the prospect of investing in buying a farm, weather impact is definitely a risk. High ground and plans for mitigating the impact of flooding would be an important factor.

Monday, December 19, 2011

ACDI/VOCA Empowers People in the Global Economy

I'm hoping to hear back this week about whether or not ACDI/VOCA will approve my proposal to do my global internship with their local headquarters in the Philippines. Here's a video that tells us more about what they do around the world:

ACDI/VOCA stands for Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance. They are a non-profit organization that is striving to see a world where "people are empowered to succeed in the global economy."

Their mission is "to promote economic opportunities for cooperatives, enterprises and communities through the innovative application of sound business practice."

They value a commitment to their overseas beneficiaries. They want to alleviate poverty and see broad-based economic growth. They also value wise stewardship of development resources. The have high standards for the development projects they undertake but they maintain a human focus. This means there is accountability and they are results-oriented. They also value their staff. Their staff are diverse, empowered, and qualified to do the important work of advancing the mission.

ACDI/VOCA has worked in 145 countries since being founded in 1963. They have about $140 million in total revenues. Right now they have 97 active projects in 41 countries. With over 1500 employees, 170 are based in the U.S. while 1,350 are overseas. (ACDI/VOCA at a glance).

Sunday, December 18, 2011

How NOT to Make Chocolate

All this research looking into cacao and cocoa production and starting a chocolate business has me anxious to make some good ole chocolate of my own! So I went on YouTube to look for some videos on how to make it. I found a video that shows how easy it is! Check it out here:

125g vegetable shortening (Copha or solidified coconut oil works fine)
125g confectioner's sugar (pure icing sugar)
6 tablespoons cocoa powder (good quality)
4 tablespoons powdered milk (full cream)
Pinch of salt

Seems simple enough right?

Well, I went out and got ingredients. But it's a little different from the video considering I'm in the United States and we've got different products. I went to an organic store and got some Navitas Naturals brand raw cacao powder from Peru (though packaged in Novato, California). I also got Bob's Red Mill brand sweet cream buttermilk powder, premium quality. Then I went to Ralph's grocery store to get powdered sugar, salt, and instead of Copha I got a 3 block pack Crisco vegetable shortening.

After watching the video, I thought it'd be super easy to make this. The problem was that I don't have a clear understanding of what 125 grams of anything looks like! Grams? My kitchen drawer has tablespoons and measuring cups. Nothing in grams, really. So I just sort of guess-timated. That's okay to do when baking, right?

Keep in mind too, that I've never really baked much before! So after my first attempt at making chocolate . . . . IT WAS TERRIBLE!!! It was kinda hard to stomach actually. It was ultra creamy and somewhat sweet, but it was really gross! The pic to the right is what it looked like ------>

I am well on my way to building my super successful social enterprise chocolate business! Sigh.

Okay, don't do that again.

I didn't want to leave it at this first terrible batch so I wanted to try again. This time I figured I had better get my measurements of ingredients closer to correct if I want it to at least taste like chocolate. After going online, I found a conversion calculator from grams to cups. That's better! So 125 grams is about half a cup. My mistake the first time around was putting twice the powdered sugar as what I was supposed to and also putting four times the crisco as I was supposed to. Ew.

Correct proportions made all the difference! My second batch turned out great! And it tasted like chocolate too! See picture to the left.

Now that I have an idea of what proportions I need for each of the essential ingredients, now it'll be fun to experiment with different substitutes and additional things. Maybe instead of powdered milk, try liquid milk. Instead of Peruvian cacao, try Ecuadorian cacao (or even some sourced from the Philippines, if I can find it). I'd like to try adding almonds or pepper mint or hazel nut or caramel. This will be the fun part! Seeing which blends work well and trying to market it!

One step at a time first. I'll be interested to see some chocolate manufacturing in the Philippines.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Work of CRS in the Philippines

I found this video today that talks about some of the work that Catholic Relief Services is doing to support cacao farming in the Philippines.

According to their web site, in an article entitled "Making the World Safe for Chocolate" by Laura Sheahen, the pod borer insect is a menace to cacao farming. It worms its way into young cacao pods and destroys the beans. They appeared in the 1980's and severely impacted the Filipino cacao market. Prior to this, several decades before, it was a successful crop. At one time, the Philippines produced about 20% of the world's cocoa.

As an effort to revive this crop, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) has a program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture aimed at supporting Filipino farmers, providing free seedlings, and paying for areas to be paved so that farmers have a clean place to dry their seeds properly.

It's interesting to see how CRS is helping the cacao farm industry while combating poverty.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Tidbits About the Philippines

I learned a few more tidbits about what it's like to live in the Philippines.

According to as of December 14, 2011, one US dollar ($1) exchanges for 44.1306 PHP (Philippine pesos). That means $100 US is equivalent to 4,413.06 PHP. In other words, if I want to know how many dollars some amount of pesos is, I can just divide the amount of pesos by 44.1306 to see about how much that translates to in U.S. dollars. I haven't traveled internationally before so it can get pretty confusing and intimidating when I see that something costs 50,000 pesos. But really, that's roughly $1,133. Okay, so now I have a frame of reference!

According to the National Statistics Office, the population of the Philippines (in 2007) was about 88.57 million people. In 2009, the average family income was about $4,681 annually while those considered poor made about $1,409 annually.

According to Index Mundi, approximately 33% of the Filipino population falls below the poverty line (in 2006) compared to 12% of population in the U.S. (in 2004), and only 3% of population in China (in 2011).

Things definitely cost less in the Philippines but people are also making a lot less income!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Little Bit of Philippine History

It was interesting to learn more about the Philippines today. I found this web site that had enough digestible information to gain a better picture of the country. The web site is

The country is actually comprised of over 7,107 islands with 3 main island groups: Luzon (to the North), Visayas (central), and Mindanao (to the South). The capital city of the Philippines is Manila on the island of Luzon.

The Filipino culture has been shaped as much by its proximity to other countries as it has by its history. It is surrounded by Malaysia and Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, China, as well as South Korea and Japan.

It has also had its share of occupations, conquests, and conflicts. Aboriginal inhabitants date as far back as 25,000 years ago by the Negritos from Asia. Spain conquered and ruled for over 300 years, colonizing from the 1520's through the late 1890's. The islands were named the Philippines in honor of King Philip II in Spain. There were periods of revolt and resistance.

After losing a war with the United States (U.S.) over Cuba, Spain sold the Philippines to the U.S. for $20 million. This led to the Filipino-American War for 10 years which resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 Filipinos. Partial independence was granted after U.S. President Roosevelt recognized a new Philippine Constitution. The Philippines were then heavily impacted by World War II as Japanese forces invaded Luzon and took over Manila.

Full independence from the U.S. was finally granted to the Philippines after the war on July 4, 1946.

Since gaining independence, the Philippines has had to deal with its own internal politics though maintaining its democracy.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Making Contact with ACDI/VOCA

I was excited to hear back from ACDI/VOCA. They've got a local office in Davao City. That's in the southern island of Mindanao. It's hard to make plans around this holiday season so he suggested I send him more details about the global internship, my goals and objectives, along with proposed contributions to their organization that I can make. If we can agree to work together, I can purchase plane tickets and plan to go in February, then we'd touch bases in January after the holiday to discuss details of the internship. We'll see how things progress in the next week or so!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Reaching out to Potential Host Organizations

So now that the Dean of my graduate program approved my choice of Cacao Farming and Cocoa Production in the Philippines for my global internship, now I really need a host organization. I sent out several emails reaching out to ACDI/VOCA as well as the World Cocoa Foundation, the Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines, Fair Trade USA, and Fair Trade International.

I even reached out to a local cacao farmer in Naga City in the Philippines as well as asking family members and filipino friends to inquire if they have any contacts in the Philippines connected to the cocoa industry.

I hope I get some hits!

Monday, December 5, 2011

ACDI/VOCA Impact Area

Here's an interesting map of ACDI/VOCA's impact area. It shows the locations of nursery sites, demo farms, tree rehabilitation sites, and more. Click here or the photo below:

They've got 29 demo farms according to the map. I'd love to go and visit some of them!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

ACDI/VOCA's SUCCESS Alliance Program

I have started researching cacao farming and I came across this article online from Agriculture Business Week posted October 18, 2008 called "Cacao: The Resurrection Crop for Farmers in the Philippines."

From this article, I learned that cacao has been cultivated in the Philippines since the 17th century and that there has been a major decline in cocoa production there since 1988. It would appear that by 2006, cacao was planted on less than 10,000 hectares across the country with the majority of it coming from the Davao region.

According to the article, the estimated volume of cocoa production in 2008 was only 6,000 to 7,000 tons with more than 95% of it used locally.

But it seems there is growing local interest in cacao farming credited mostly to the SUCCESS Alliance Philippines Phase II program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by U.S. non-profit ACDI/VOCA (Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance) and its local partner The Cocoa Foundation of the Philippines (also called CocoaPhil). According to the project profile page on the ACDI/VOCA's web site, "SUCCESS" stands for Sustainable Cocoa Enterprise Solutions for Smallholders. Starting in 2006, it was a $2.6 million program over 3 years to help improve cocoa production and marketing linkages.

The demand is there. Locally, the Philippines needs about 32,000 tons of cocoa production to meet local demand which means the majority is imported from elsewhere. There is also a shortage of high-quality cocoa.

There is currently more than 2,000,000 hectares of coconut lands where cacao can be inter-planted. The coconut trees provide the necessary shade coverage for ideal cacao planting conditions. The profit potential is huge. More than $1,500 per hectare of net income can be generated from 500 mature trees each year. The international demand for cocoa beans is growing at about 90,000 tons annually. Regional demand from Southeast Asian grinders is at 220,000 tons that is imported from Africa and other distance countries. According to their web site,
"ACDI/VOCA achieves this through activities that deliver farmer training and extension, establish post-harvest processing sites, build capacity in nursery plant production, rehabilitate old cocoa trees and establish internationally acceptable cocoa bean quality standards. A major focus is promoting the opportunities and participation of smallholder farmers in the cocoa value chain as a means of poverty reduction and economic growth."
They have trained more than 150,000 local farmers. They have helped approximately 800 farmers improve productivity and quality of 400,000 cacao trees. They have distributed over 1.12 million plants to farmers.

It's clear that ACDI/VOCA has made tremendous strides towards improving cocoa production. I'll reach out to them to explore the possibility of doing my global internship with them. It would be really interesting to see how they would measure their own success now that the program has concluded in 2009.

Note: Photos here taken from ACDI/VOCA's Facebook page.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Growing Interest in Filipino Cacao Farming

While I do not personally have a farming background, I do have a particular interest in cacao farming and how it is cultivated to produce cocoa. Eventually, I’m interested in establishing some sort of retail business involving chocolate, perhaps a cocoa cafĂ© that allows people to sample various applications of cocoa and taste chocolate produced from different regions.

In preparation for my future business, I know that I will need to learn the intricacies of cultivating cacao and educate myself about the relevant issues to cacao farming. Either way, I would like to source my cocoa from the Philippines so that it can benefit Filipino farmers. As a Filipino-American, I am particularly interested in learning more about my heritage and this will be a great way to do this. I still have family living in the Philippines. Depending on conditions, I would even consider investing in cacao farming, purchasing land, and hiring local farm workers. Perhaps I can help contribute to the cocoa production output from the Philippines.

It'll be interesting to start learning more about Filipino cacao farming and the related issues associated with it.