Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR): Aligning genetic resources, production, and post-harvest systems to market opportunities for Pacific island and Australian cocoa

September 30, 2021: Cocoa farmers residing in the districts of Vaisigano 1 and 2, Falealupo, Alatuaia i Sisifo, and Salega East benefited from the first round of the local Cocoa Fermentation competition implemented by the Scientific Research Organisation of Samoa SROS.

One of the objectives for this regional project is ‘to evaluate the opportunities for Pacific cocoa industries to expand the value of their markets related to quality attributes and industry organisations’. The activities aim to assess bean quality through local competitions and linking to buyers for niche markets so Samoan cocoa is able to compete in the high-value, low-volume markets based on fine flavor and ‘single origin’ branding.

The one-month-long competition started with the registration and survey of farmers in the area before a seminar was hosted to share information on findings from fermentation studies within the region. The purpose and significance of the competition for producing quality beans and the conditions for participation were also explained. The project is trialing and studying the use of shallow trays compared to the more conventional deep boxes for fermentation, which are promoted by other cocoa-producing countries as being more efficient and producing better quality fermented beans.

Based on the survey information, farmers were divided to compete in two categories, one group to use boxes and the other trays. Three weeks was allowed for farmers to work on their fermentation and drying trials before the selection of their samples for collection by the Food Science & Technology team for quality assessment and evaluation in the laboratory at Nafanua.

The results for quality assessment alone based on fermentation were excellent for most of the competing farmers, and those who did exceptionally well (>90%) were the winners of the top three prizes for each category. One farmer achieved 100% well-fermented beans from the cut test and was awarded the special prize.

All participating farmers were gifted with the fermenting box or trays (3) they used for the competition, harvesting hooks, tarpaulins and rakes for drying, and storage bins. These were found to be the essential equipment needed for cocoa farmers to efficiently implement proper fermentation and drying processes to ensure quality beans are produced for the export market.

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