How long does it take to grow and harvest cacao?
One and a half years if grafted, said 67-year-old Bern Karaan, who has had six years of cacao planted in his farm in Jagna.
More Boholanos have been exposed to the feasibility and marketability of the cacao, and it is the sweetest time to grow cacao as government gives the crop a sweeter push.
Cacao industry workers in Bohol have assumed that because growing the crop uses up so much time before one can harvest, it is placed in the backrooms.
The shortened time for growth, they believed, could change the mentality of people.
A high value commercial crop with a potential to make one moneyed, a native cacao which may have its traces from MesoAmerica during the Manila Acapulco trade, planted at 3 meters by 3 meters can produce between 2 to 3 tons annually, according to Philippine cacao expert Christopher Fadriga, national president of Plantacion de Sikwate.
Sold at P200 to P300 per kilo, cacao has the potential to be an excellent cash crop, attests another cacao grower Cecilia de Leon.
Herself a retiree from the US, de Leon who also keeps coffee aside from cacao started s nursery, knowing that demand for grafted seedlings would go high in the next months.
A local chocolate maker has been scouring for cacao seeds and sourcing them out from Mindanao, after the requirement of 6 tons could hardly be met, chocolatier and Department of Science and technology assistant provincial head, Vina Antopina said.
The native cacao, which is one the country intends to register internationally as the source of the Ginintuan Aromatic Chocolate, gives out the heirloom white seeds, notably ranked among the best sources of chocolates in the world.
Already surviving in Bohol, the native cacao are prime source of the famed cocoa which is the main ingredient for chocolates.
But characteristically small and prone to diseases, the small seed yielding cacao were later pruned for the “better” forastero and trinitario varieties.
It was seen as better because these later varieties are sturdy, produces bigger seeds and thus produce more weight, said DOST’s Antopina.
The DOST attempts to bring back to Bohol the glory and the profitability of the cacao through its Small Enterprises Technology Upgrading Program (SET-UP) production enhancement seminars.
And little did Boholanos know that the cacao which they grew for ages, are those of the criollio variety, the best cacao variety.
The coming of the forastero and the trinitario has caused cross pollination that has altered most of the local production, cacao producers said, during the seminar.
Asked why, after all the years, cacao has not shot up as a good cash crop, de Leon surmised: “I think it is for lack of information and the lack of technology.”
“Cacao has always been grown for personal consumption,” she added considering that the native variety could long years to grow before one can harvest. (PIA-Bohol)