Jul 21, 2017 Last Updated 2:11 PM, Jun 12, 2017

Chocolicious

How a 1-week contest inspired farmers and boosted Solomons cocoa exports

TEN new farmers emerged as finalists at this year’s Solomon Islands Chocolate Week – a sign that more cocoa producers are becoming interested in producing quality cocoa. And according to the Solomon Islands Commodities Export Marketing Authority, the annual event has had a direct impact on the volume of cocoa beans exported to boutique chocolate markets by the Solomon Islands.

Held at the National Auditorium in Honiara from April 24-28, this year’s event was hailed as a success by stakeholders for its support of cocoa farmers and for facilitating new more profitable market opportunities for their quality cocoa.

The event was organised by the Australian and New Zealand-funded Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (*PHAMA) Program, Adventist Development Relief Agency (ADRA) and Solomon Islands Rural Development Program (RDP), in collaboration with the Commodities Export Marketing Authority (CEMA) and Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAL).

Through PHAMA’s support, chocolate makers from Australia, New Zealand, and the USA attended as judges. 

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The 33rd Australia Papua New Guinea Business Forum and Trade Expo was a bonus for local agricultural and handicraft producers seeking to promote their products and expand their networks. With support from the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (PHAMA*) Program, local producers of coffee, coconut and cocoa occupied five of the 57 booths at the Trade Expo, with two of the booths dedicated to promoting Papua New Guinea handicrafts.

In addition to showcasing their products, the businesses interacted with around 400 delegates from Australia, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand who were part of the two-day forum, as well as the many Port Moresby residents who visited the booths. Susan Bakani of Artisan Culture, who exhibited in the handicraft booth, said she met many visitors interested in her products and felt the expo had given her an opportunity to expand her network.

PHAMA’s support is part of its ongoing work to improve market access for Papua New Guinea industries which is in line with the Government of Papua New Guinea’s policy to promote agriculture...

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Pods of gold

New flavour offer for choco industry as Vanuatu cashes in

ON Malo Island in Vanuatu, Moli Lui observed in silence as the formalities of greetings and introductions took place to welcome a trade delegation of international cocoa buyers. When the theologian was finally invited to address the visitors, there was no mistaking the enthusiasm with which he spoke about his newfound interest in cocoa farming.

In the minutes that followed, Lui had impressed the buyers enough who, after sampling some of his dried cocoa beans, asked to purchase the sack of beans and have its contents divided among them. The trip to the island was part of a trade visit organised by the Pacific Horticultural and Agricultural Market Access (*PHAMA) Program which is funded by the Australian and New Zealand governments.

The visit aimed to establish trade relations between international cocoa buyers and local farmers, producers and exporters as well as government stakeholders in Vanuatu’s cocoa industry. The trade delegation comprised chocolate makers Greg D’Alesandre of Dandelion Chocolate in the United States of America, Karl Hogarth of Hogarth Chocolates in New Zealand, Peter Channells and Li Peng Monroe of Jasper and Myrtle in Australia and cocoa buyer Mathieu Bours from Le Cercle du Cacao in Belgium. 

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THE Melanesian countries in the Pacific dominate the economic landscape in the region and with that vantage point; they are on the verge of formalising a new free trade agreement to operate in a single market economy that will bring prosperity to their citizens and economies.

We can call them the M4 or the Big4 - PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu - whose combined market size of 9.6 million people encompasses 94 per cent of the whole Pacific region. But they prefer to be known as the MSG, or the Melanesian Spearhead Group. And just as the name suggests, its role is to spearhead trade and economic integration for the benefit of the member countries.

The idea to form a new trade bloc was first introduced in 2005 by the MSG leaders and over the years the concept has blossomed into what is now being penned to allow the free movement of goods and services, investments, and labour amongst the four countries. Consent to the agreement from Solomon Islands and Fiji make it half complete. Once PNG and Vanuatu ratify, which could be any day now, it becomes the only trade agreement operational in the Pacific.

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Kava ban

Suspect exports under scrutiny as Fiji prepares to stop two-day kava

FIJI will soon ban the importation of the suspect two-day kava variety from Vanuatu to safeguard the quality of its kava exports to the global market and the health of its kava-drinking population. It is part of the Ministry of Agriculture’s plans as the country prepares to implement quality standards for its kava industry and pass legislation to ensure strict guidelines for all stakeholders.

The Kava Bill, which will be reviewed by Parliament in its first sitting this month, comes just weeks after Pacific kava exports to the United States came under scrutiny. The alleged discovery of tainted kava from Vanuatu, from which some Fiji dealers buy two-day kava from and mix with their Fiji noble kava for export to the US, threatens the sustainability and faith of this growing global market.

The issue was highlighted in January when Sarami Plantation, one of biggest exporters of kava there, was accused of shipping tainted kava to the US via New Zealand. The concerns were raised by kava scientist Dr Mathias Schmidt, whose work resulted in Germany lifting the kava ban after almost 12 years, and Vanuatu Ambassador to the European Union, Roy Mickey Joy, in Brussels. Germany lifted the ban on June 11, 2014, the court ruling that based on available data, the benefit-risk ratio of kava medicinal products was confirmed as positive.

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